Monday, January 23, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with
In Remembrance of James Harding
Mr. Penikett: I rise today to note the passing this morning of James Harding, the father of our colleague Trevor Harding, the Member for Faro.
James Harding, a lawyer and entrepeneur, had a long legislative career in Nova Scotia. He served as a Minister in Robert Stanfield's government for a number of years. Last year, James Harding visited his son in the Yukon, and he observed this Legislature at work for several days, during which time he made a number of new friends. The Member for Faro was at his father's side during his last days. I am sure that all Members will understand the reason for his absence from this House and join me in expressing our condolences to the family.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Abel: I would like to introduce to the House Mr. William Josie, band counsellor for Old Crow.
Speaker: Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a legislative return for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Government Leader. The Government Leader has said that he will be meeting with Alaskan Governor Tony Knowles in the next few weeks. Governor Knowles has suggested that he supports environmentally responsible oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Would the Government Leader tell this House when he will be meeting with the Governor of Alaska and what his government's position is on development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Officials are now in the process of trying to arrange a
meeting with Governor Knowles, to take place as soon as possible. I have already written a
letter to the governor stating our concern with his announcement, and I hope that we will
be better able to discuss it when we have a chance to meet face to face.
Ms. Commodore: How has the Government Leader supported the Vuntut Gwitchin in lobbying the new governor to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Will the MLA for Old Crow and the chief be invited to meetings with the governor on this important issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Until I have the opportunity to meet with the governor, those are questions that I cannot answer. As I said, I have already drafted a letter to him. I do want to draw to the Member's attention that there was a memorandum of understanding between our government and the previous government in Alaska regarding the habitat and the Porcupine caribou herd.
Ms. Commodore: There has certainly been quite a change in the position from Alaska. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he will be consulting with the international Gwitchin steering committee prior to the meeting with the Alaskan government. Also, will he be meeting with the chief from Old Crow prior to that meeting? It is important.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Cabinet is planning a trip to Old Crow this weekend. This will certainly be one of the items that would be on the agenda for discussion.
Question re: Electrical distribution, participation by communities
Mr. Penikett: I would like to ask the Government Leader a question arising from the comment he made in Committee on January 19, last week, in respect to there being any further plans for dealings with the municipalities in respect to changes in the Energy Corporation or the delivery of power in the territory. When the Government Leader was asked if it were true that the Association of Yukon Communities is no longer a factor, the Government Leader replied, "That is correct. We left the door open for First Nations.'' If that is correct, I assume it refers to the municipal governments.
Can he confirm if there is in fact no further dialogue with the municipalities on the question of equity of the Energy Corporation or the municipal involvement in the distribution system?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, that is correct. We had not heard anything from the Association of Yukon Communities since their meeting in Mayo last fall. I stated at the end of November that the Yukon Energy Corporation would be retaining its present structure for the foreseeable future.
Mr. Penikett: Of course, "the foreseeable future" clause is one that has given me a great deal of concern, but I will pursue that at another occasion.
What I want to ask about now is the statement made at the Mayo meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities, and as reported in the Whitehorse Star on September 20, to the effect that the Government Leader told community leaders that they will have to prepare a proposal, and he gave a commitment to them that he would discuss it with them. I take it from the story that this refers to the discussion of distribution of franchises. Is the Government Leader now saying that he is going back on his word to the municipalities to have a discussion with them if they bring forward a proposal on this subject?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not at all. If they want to discuss something, that is fine. I just said the Yukon Energy Corporation was going to retain its present structure for the foreseeable future. We have the potential for an upsurge in demands for electricity in the Yukon, and the corporation has to plan for that. We cannot have the uncertainty of restructuring the corporation clouding the decisions that have to be made by its board with respect to future electrical supplies in the Yukon.
Mr. Penikett: That is exactly right, given that the government opposite created the uncertainty in the first place. I am bound to ask the Government Leader this: is he now saying that his position is that the municipalities can come forward and discuss something, but his mind is made up and is not amenable to openly discussing the proposals made by the municipalities?
I ask that because nobody in this House actually knows what the government's position is on municipal franchises. As the Whitehorse Star reported, the former Minister responsible for energy was opposed to them, while the Government Leader seemed to indicate at the Mayo meeting that he was of an open mind. What is the government's policy?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think there is any difference between the previous Minister and me. We both told the Association of Yukon Communities that we did not see how franchising municipalities would be in the best interest of the ratepayers of the Yukon, and that if they had some way of showing us it was, we would be prepared to listen to them. That was all in the context of restructuring with the First Nations. Since that is off, I do not see it progressing right now. The position AYC took from the start was that they did not want to see the Yukon Energy Corporation restructured but, if it was, they wanted the ability to have a piece of it.
Question re: Municipal Act, revisions to
Mr. Cable: I have some questions, in a somewhat similar vein, for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The mayors of the various municipalities made a presentation to the Minister in November on changes to the Municipal Act. It is my understanding that the mayors, through the Association of Yukon Communities, want major input into the revision process. What is the Minister's position on the mayors' request?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We received the request and the briefing. We are now reviewing it and hope that, by the end of March when the AYC meets, we will be able to give them a draft of the whole project.
Mr. Cable: I would like to follow up on the questions from the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Over the years, the municipalities have had the powers to operate electrical utilities and franchise them. These powers have been removed as the Municipal Act has been revised over the years. In the context of the major revisions of the Municipal Act, is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services prepared to consider revisiting the empowerment of municipalities to either own or franchise electrical utilities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would have to look at the situation and see if it agrees
with what we are trying to do with the electrical issue. They have not given me a briefing
on any serious situation; they just talked about it and left it at that.
Mr. Cable: On a further matter involving the municipalities, the municipal block funding, as I understand it, has been frozen over the years and of course the value in real terms has deteriorated. Is this government prepared to consider, as part of the revisiting of the Municipal Act, the empowerment of the municipalities to increase their revenue-generating powers?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: As Members know, we are giving them what is legislated in this Legislature and also, if Members have read the Auditor General's report, we give them all their block funding immediately and they are making interest on it. The Auditor General suggested that we should be doing that, but we are not doing it. We are letting the municipalities have that interest and it amounts to quite a bit of money for each community.
Question re: Winter employment project plan
Mr. McDonald: A couple of weeks ago the government was asked about the basic
justification for such large supplementary budget expenditures and about the need for
these monies to be sought through a special warrant. We were told that this is partly due
to the urgent need to provide for winter employment, and the government tabled a list of
winter-employment projects which, upon reflection, appeared to need some revision.
Presumably a carefully considered revision was tabled late last week, and I have a few
questions about it. Can the Government Leader or any Minister familiar with the winter
works program tell us what criteria the government used to approve this particular list of
projects as winter employment projects?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will answer the first question. The supplementaries would perhaps be better answered by my Ministers.
As I said in debate, the request went to the departments, and it was not about how many jobs it would create, but what projects could be advanced or speeded up so that we could keep as many Yukoners as possible working this winter. There was no target set. We were not looking at creating new projects that were not already in the plans. As I have told the Member opposite in debate in Committee last week, the specifics of the list could be better answered by the Ministers from each department.
Mr. McDonald: I thank the Minister for his answer, and I will do precisely that.
This particular list clearly has some selection involved because there are some projects in the supplementary that were not considered for winter employment, or at least with this list of winter employment projects.
I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services how much employment he expects would be achieved through the $200,000 purchase of sundry equipment for maintenance facilities?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take that under advisement. The answer will take some time to prepare.
Mr. McDonald: When I first asked this question, there was some ridicule suggesting that this was not an important subject. Knowing that people in rural communities and unemployed people take this subject very seriously, I must again ask the Minister the question as to why they would list the purchase of equipment for maintenance facilities as a winter-employment project when the equipment is produced outside the territory? It is only the work associated with the purchasing officer that would actually be counted as winter-employment in the Yukon. Why would they list this particular expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: It is quite true that the equipment would be made outside. Unfortunately, we do not have factories that can do that. However, there has to be operators and people to work with the equipment.
Question re: Winter employment project plan
Mr. McDonald: This is sundry equipment, which means shovels and chainsaws, and that sort of thing. This is not a winter works program to provide for chainsaws to actually do some slashing. This is a request for $200,000 extra this year for sundry equipment, as part of a winter employment project, when the historical expenditure in this particular area has been about $200,000. So, the government is asking for $400,000 total and calling half of that winter employment. What possible justification can it have - given that, to my knowledge, this has never before been attempted - for calling the purchase of equipment like this a winter employment project?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take it under advisement.
Mr. McDonald: This Minister has been in the Legislature for a long time, as have I. We have both represented rural communities for a long time and we both know what typically counts as winter employment. If the Minister was honest with us now, he would acknowledge that $200,000 spent on equipment purchases may be valuable or it may not be. At any rate, it certainly is not winter employment, and it certainly would not go over very well in any municipality - or coffee shop - in rural Yukon in which I have ever been.
I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development why $150,000 for surplus electricity utilization is listed as a winter employment project.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding of that project is that electricity will be utilized in the late night hours to heat water to heat buildings. That is, the water will be heated through the night, stored and then used to heat buildings during the day. That amount is for the construction of the tanks, and so on.
Mr. McDonald: So, the Minister can tell us that, in his view, this is a winter employment project, in the sense that it is going to create lots of employment, which is why this particular project has been put on that list. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that there will definitely be some employment involved. I do not know exactly how much, and I am not fully apprised of all the details of the project.
Question re: Winter employment project plan
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Government Services about the purchase of motor vehicles. When this issue was first raised, I asked why the government had listed the purchase of new vehicles in the amount of $280,000 as a winter employment project. There was some joking around about how this was going to create jobs for the GM plant in Pickering. The Minister has obviously gone back and had the figure changed, but he is still listing the purchase of motor vehicles as a winter employment project in the Yukon, and now the figure that is listed as a jobs project is $60,000 for the purchase of motor vehicles. Is there a lack of employment in the purchasing of vehicles in the Yukon that the Minister is trying to address through this particular expenditure, and the labelling of it as a winter employment project?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, I do not think that it is listed as a purchase of motor vehicles. My understanding is that the $60,000 is for rebuilding of engines and other work on the vehicles that we have in the fleet at the present time. It is work that will be done here in the Yukon this winter.
Mr. McDonald: He presumably counts that as a high-priority, winter employment project. Does he count insurance planning for facilities as a project worthy of being called a winter employment project?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes. We need to evaluate the facilities for insurance purposes. I think the problem is that the Member is trying to label what we are doing as what were traditionally called "make-work projects" - projects that were initiated in order to put people to work. For example, there were things done in the past such as hiring people to shovel snow, which had to be done quickly before the sun melted it. This is not that type of project. These projects were brought even though they could have been done next spring, but instead we decided to hire people to do them over the winter, which would help the employment situation. I think that the terminology is unfortunate - it should have been "projects advanced", rather than "winter works", because of the traditional sense of what "winter works" are.
Mr. McDonald: I really have to take exception to the Minister's absolutely flippant response suggesting that perhaps we are only calling for jobs for which there was no utility. I have not said once that any one of these expenditures is not justified, but it was not I who tabled a project list, entitled "winter employment projects". It was not I who had to correct the list. It is the government itself. There are a lot of jobs and program expenditures that could involve a lot of employment for people who are traditionally and typically unemployed in the winter, which was ostensibly the reason for having this program established in the first place.
For example, is the Minister saying that the insurance planning project for facilities is a high priority when it comes to providing winter employment? I am not asking whether or not he thinks it has to be done. I am asking whether or not, in his opinion, it counts as a winter employment project.
Hon. Mr. Nordling: Yes, it counts as a winter employment project because it would not have otherwise been done this winter.
Question re: Information highway
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. This summer, Jon Gerrard, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, was in the Yukon to talk about a national science policy. The Minister stated that the information highway is like a road or a bridge - it is an infrastructure. He also stated that there should be equitable access across the country. I would like to ask this Minister whether the government has considered doing something that some of the provincial governments have done, and that is applying for federal infrastructure funding to use in developing the information highway.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: Not that I am aware of. Since I have been Minister of Economic Development, the department has not put forward such a request.
Ms. Moorcroft: It was interesting that the federal Minister, when he was here, asked the seminar group whether we wanted him to tell the Yukon government to get an information highway or they would not get their $60 million for roads. There were definitely some people there who thought that perhaps someone needed to be showing some political astuteness. Will the Minister now consider applying for federal infrastructure funding, along with YukonNet and all interested parties, to have the information highway extended to all Yukon communities?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: My understanding is that Internet will be hooking up with the other communities fairly soon. Some federal funding has gone into YukonNet, but there is an ongoing dialogue between YukonNet and the Department of Economic Development. If it is their wish that we pursue additional funding, we would certainly take it into consideration.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would hope, too, that the government might be able to demonstrate some economic leadership in this area.
The electronic communications can be used for medical diagnosis and treatment, for college courses, for business - it could really generate some wealth creation in the Yukon. Has the government sat down to determine the potential savings that could result in communities by using modern communication technologies if they are more creative with the Internet?
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I am not sure. I know the Department of Economic Development has been dealing with YukonNet and has certainly been active in making sure that the infrastructure is there, but I am not aware of an actual study being done to look at potential savings at this point.
Question re: Lawsuits
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. My information tells me that this government has at least 20 outstanding lawsuits against it, for a total of almost $17 million, by First Nations, business and individuals. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance what his plan is for the potential liability that this could have and the impact it could have on the budget and on the Yukon taxpayer.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There are some outstanding lawsuits and if the Member claims
that that is the total she has researched, I will accept her figure. I am not exactly sure
how many there are. There is some potential liability. Some of the cases have been ongoing
for many years, some are relatively new, and we have not at this point made any allowances
for potential losses. That may be necessary later on but it is not necessary at this time.
Mrs. Firth: I have a great deal of concern about the fact that the government has not made allowances for them.
Perhaps I can ask the Minister this: we are spending a tremendous amount of money for lawyers to defend the lawsuits. The Taga Ku lawsuit is one example, on which there are $150,000 in contracts to mount the defence.
I would like to ask the Government Leader, as the Minister of Finance, how the decision is made to say to someone something like, "if you do not like this decision, sue us", or, "we do not like this decision, sue us"? How is this decision made?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think a decision is ever made to tell someone to sue us. The situation happens when negotiations break down and there is no way to settle the matter. The courts are, supposedly, a last resort.
Of the potential lawsuits that the Member is mentioning, and the potential liability involved, many of them are covered by insurance. If we lose a case, our insurance company would pay for some of the losses.
Mrs. Firth: Someone must make a decision about whether issues are settled out of court or if they go to court. Someone in the government has to make that decision. The taxpayer is put at risk by this extremely large liability against the budget.
Perhaps I can ask another question, again directed to the Minister of Finance. How does the Minister determine how much money is going to be spent in legal fees defending the government in lawsuits? Who makes the decision about whether it is handled by a local law firm, by an outside law firm or by the government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I have said, a majority of the cases are covered by insurance. We get advice from the Department of Justice and, based on that advice, Cabinet makes the final decision.
Question re: MacRae street lighting
Ms. Moorcroft: My constituents have asked me about a safety concern on the Alaska Highway. In October, I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services why the department had not installed street lights in the MacRae service station area, where there are three entrances to the highway that are dark and particularly dangerous in the winter. One entrance is an icy hill with poor visibility.
I would like to ask the Minister about his response that traffic volumes do not meet the normal requirements for street lighting. Why does he say that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There has to be a certain amount of traffic going through an area to warrant certain things according to the standard of highways across Canada, and that particular area does not come up to that standard.
Ms. Moorcroft: My constituents say it is dangerous the way it is now, as I have also observed. How is it fair that there are no lights at all at MacRae, where there is a lot of commercial and residential traffic, yet the street lights are still lit at the Yukon Alaska Transport depot, where there is apparently no traffic volume?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There was traffic there when the street lights were installed.
Ms. Moorcroft: There is now traffic at MacRae. The government just put in nine lights at the intersection to the 30-odd lots in the Cowley area. What is there to investigate? Is the Minister going to get lights up there before summer, when we have 24-hour daylight again?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We have no plans to do that.
While I am on my feet, I would like to answer a question from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini. The $200,000 for vehicle maintenance refers to installing an overhead crane at the welding shop and garage in town, and the purchasing is done by local people.
Question re: Northwestel rate increase application
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on his letter to Mr. Spicer, the chair of the CRTC, about the Northwestel rate rebalancing application. In the letter to Mr. Spicer, he stated,
"I would further request consideration by the commission to determine if an oral public hearing is in the public interest in this case." Has the Government Leader had a reply from Mr. Spicer?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, not that I am aware of.
Mr. Cable: Last week, the media carried a report on Northwestel's labour force levels and there is a possibility that the labour force is going to be reduced. Has the Government Leader had an opportunity to consider whether this thrust by Northwestel is in any way related to the rate rebalancing application?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the Member is asking me if I believe that the rate rebalancing is going to cost some jobs. I believe that Northwestel has publicly stated that it has to be competitive. Sometimes, competitiveness in the telecommunications industry does mean a realignment of jobs. Having said that, however, I am not certain what Northwestel's overall plans are. I did meet with the president last summer when the rumour was circulating about all the jobs that were going to be leaving Whitehorse. At that time, he reassured me that a balance would be maintained and that Whitehorse would have its share of jobs.
Mr. Cable: It would seem that there are jobs at stake. There is also a massive restructuring of the way we pay telephone rates.
Has the Government Leader thought about approaching the other parties who wish to make interventions, such as the Association of Yukon Communities, and having his government work with those possible intervenors in order to present a unified front to the CRTC?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is an option that is available to government. First, we will wait for a reply to the letter to see if the CRTC will, in fact, be undertaking public hearings or if it will do it by way of a paper process, as Northwestel has requested.
Question re: Winter employment project plan
Mr. McDonald: I have other questions, but I am going to have to go back to the winter employment issue for a moment, partly because of the absolutely outrageous response that came from one Minister about how this is all about winter projects, and not necessarily employment projects.
We were told that this funding was absolutely essential and that it could not go through the Legislature, but through a special warrant, to get it going early enough to help people who were seasonally unemployed. We were told that. The Minister now comes along and says, in a flippant way, that the projects that are identified are there to help government and they are going to be happening in the winter, so we should not be complaining.
I will ask any Minister who wants to respond to this question: who are they expecting to employ through these programs? Was there consideration given to providing employment for the unemployed?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said that this was not a job creation venture, but to help extend employment for some people who are generally laid off in the fall. If we could keep them working for another couple of months, it certainly helps the overall winter employment numbers. It was not even as great a design as the one from last year in trying to find projects that would create the most employment. It was to keep as many people working as possible without taking on new projects. That is all it was, and that is why it was not designed strictly as a winter works project.
Mr. McDonald: I realize that the government had a $14 million windfall from the federal government. Obviously, there was a desire to spend big time when it came to equipment purchases and other things. I have to ask the obvious question under the circumstances: are insurance planners seasonally unemployed and in need of some extra projects to tide them over between now and the spring, which is when this budget would have gone ahead anyway?
Hon. Mr. Nordling: No, but it will keep them working on a project they would not otherwise have been done.
Mr. McDonald: I have some problems with this because I know personally of dozens and dozens of people in the rural communities who have traditionally done things like highway slashing and that sort of thing during the wintertime - useful projects, projects that are necessary for road construction and other things - that are not listed here as being high priority but we have a request, for example, in Justice for departmental equipment and furniture, for $88,000. This is to move them to a total of $684,000 worth of expenditures for departmental equipment and furniture. Can any Minister answer why that would be considered an employment project for the wintertime, given that that same department has budgeted a whopping $715,000 for next year in departmental equipment and furniture?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I told the Member opposite, I did not have the answers for him in Committee debate and I do not have the answers for him today. Maybe the appropriate Minister will, but as he is not here today I will endeavour to get the answer back for the Member.
Question re: Land availability
Mr. McDonald: If the Minister wants to entertain a new list, then I will be more than happy to consider that.
I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about land availability. One of the concerns many people have, particularly those living in trailer homes in rental parks, is that there is not enough available low-cost land for purchase. The Minister sent me a note or a legislative return indicating that the only development they were anticipating that would allow for trailers to be moved onto lots was in the Cowley area but that these lots would be in the neighbourhood of $30,000-plus.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not the government has had discussions with the City of Whitehorse to investigate the development of low-cost land for anyone, and particularly for people in trailer parks who want to own their own property?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Yukon Housing, the city and representatives of the trailer owners have, I believe, met once - and they could possibly have met since - about two weeks ago. I do not know if they have had another meeting since then.
Mr. McDonald: The government has a very sizeable chunk of money in the capital
estimates for land development in the City of Whitehorse and is proceeding, presumably, to
continue developments in the Hamilton Boulevard area. Is any of the money slated for next
year slated to develop low-cost land for people who cannot afford a $25,000 to $35,000 or
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will have to see what the committee comes up with. I would like to point out that, regardless of where these trailers are moved, they will have to be brought up to the current building and fire standards.
I have been told that some of these trailers are not worth the money it would take to rebuild them to standard.
Mr. McDonald: Surely that would be a decision for the trailer homeowners to make, not the Minister. Whether or not they will raise the standard or value of their home would be their decision.
They are interested, however, in having the opportunity to purchase low-cost land. This issue was raised two years ago by me, and again last year. We were told that the request would be given careful consideration. We are now about to debate a capital estimate. Does it include low-cost land for people who wish to purchase cheaper lots?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We would have to see if the city agrees, along with a few
other things, so I suspect that there will be no action taken this year.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the acting Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Executive Council Office - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on the Executive Council Office?
Mr. Cable: I have some questions that arise in the context of a question that was asked of the Government Leader about 10 days ago by the Leader of the Official Opposition. It related to his inquiries on a discussion in this House about what the Government Leader was doing, and what the government's position is, on the national unity issue. Has the Government Leader given any further thought to bringing a motion before this House that would allow an expression from the Members of this Legislature about issues surrounding the national unity issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe that I indicated to the Leader of the Official Opposition that I did not have any difficulty with that, and that some time during this session of the Legislature it may be a good thing to hear the views of the Legislature about it. I still take the same position; I have not changed my mind. I would like to see us get through the budget first; we are going to be here for quite a while. There has been no date set for the vote in Quebec, yet. I believe that some time during this session of the Legislature I will propose a government motion, and we can debate it.
Mr. Cable: One of the phenomena - or perhaps it should have been expected - in both the Meech Lake and Charlottetown round of constitutional negotiations is that the various political leaders got together and reached an agreement. They then went to the people and, not surprisingly, the people were on an entirely different tack. Eventually, through different mechanisms, both of those arrangements were turned down. Has the Government Leader given any thought as to how the people of the Yukon can be brought into the national unity debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To be truthful, I have not. Maybe the debate in this Legislature will bring out some ideas about how we might further involve Yukon people. When I have talked to people about the national unity issue, almost every Yukoner makes the same point - in fact I do not believe that even one has said anything different - and that point is that they do not believe we should get back into a constitutional debate and constitutional amendments at this time. Personally, I believe that a lot of Quebec's desires can be achieved under the present constitution, without constitutional amendments.
Mr. Cable: A bit of that may go to the very core of the debate, of course. I noticed recently that some of the voices out of Quebec have indicated that English Canada has been completely silent on their desire to have greater powers.
Is the Government Leader of the view that this term "asymmetrical federalism", where one province has different powers from some, or all, of the others, is not a good thing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In my opinion, whether provinces have different powers or not is not the issue. The issue is whether they have the ability to negotiate with the federal government and to take on those responsibilities, if they so wish. A new type of federalism was outlined by the leader of the "No'' vote, the past premier of Quebec, Mr. Johnson, when he said that there is enough flexibility in the Canadian constitution to accomplish the desires of all provinces under the present constitution.
Mr. Cable: One of the downsides to Quebec separating is, of course, that the various francophone populations outside Quebec will be isolated - isolated at least from Quebec. Has the Government Leader considered whether the association of Franco-Yukonnais should be involved in the government's dealing with the national unity issue?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No. As I said, we have not given very much discussion or thought in Cabinet yet about who should be involved or how they should be involved. I personally have been waiting in vain for the Prime Minister to make his move and let us know what position he is going to take in the debate as the leader of our country.
Mr. Cable: If in fact the Prime Minister has been reticent, and I do not agree with that, it is certainly no excuse for the Leader of the Yukon government to be reticent. The question is this: is it not useful for the people of Yukon to be involved in the national unity debate, and if so, is it not useful for this government to encourage some sort of public discourse here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member could be quite right on that, and I hope that it will come out when we debate the motion. We can take it from there.
Mr. Cable: The clock is ticking on the national unity debate, and of course the
clock is ticking a lot more slowly on this budget debate. Can we get some sort of
commitment from the Government Leader to respond to the suggestion that came from the
Leader of the Official Opposition to bring a motion before the House so that we can get
this discussion going?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe I have made that commitment. I do not see that time is of the essence on this issue. As yet, no date has been set for the referendum, and the federal government has not stated what role it will be playing. Right now, the budget is our priority. We would like to see it passed. There will be plenty of time for that debate after the budget is done.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Executive Council Office
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I just have some opening comments, and we can go from there. As is the practice,
I will provide the House with some introductory comments on the O&M for the
Executive Council Office before we proceed to detailed consideration of its estimates.
The budget proposes $8.5 million in spending for the Executive Council Office in the 1995-96 fiscal year. This is a decrease of $64,000 from the current year's spending. Therefore, the budget is in keeping with our commitment to Yukoners to reduce the overall cost of government.
At the same time, we are proposing some additional spending this year that will underline the importance we attach to the settlement and implementation of land claims. The principal change in this budget from 1994-95 is the addition of the position of chief Yukon government negotiator for land claims, self-government and devolution. This position is designed to continue the work expediting the settlement of the outstanding First Nation land claim and self-government agreements. It will focus strongly on the range of issues involved in the effect of implementation of all agreements reached with Yukon First Nations. At the same time, it will renew efforts on and oversee the devolution of provincial-type responsibilities to Yukon government control.
Both this government and the Government of Canada have spoken about our interest in achieving the transfer of natural resource programs within the mandate of the current federal government. Land claims and devolution will fundamentally change the Yukon and this government. The appointment of a single chief negotiator will help to ensure that these changes are managed and coordinated in a manner that benefits Yukon residents. We believe the benefits that will accrue from the addition of this position far outweigh the increase in spending.
Overall personnel costs for the department have been increased by $59,000 with the addition of the chief negotiator position. Other spending in transfer payments have declined from 1994-95. The level of recoveries has also decreased from last year, primarily because a major national survey will not be run for Statistics Canada in 1995-96. Recoverable funds, however, still account for one-third of the department's budget.
I will now take a few moments to outline spending plans for the various branches of the Executive Council Office. On the Cabinet and management support branch, the proposed increase has resulted from the addition of the chief negotiator for land claims and devolution. This has increased the personnel costs of the branch. There is also a small increase in other costs to support this position.
The proposed budget for the Land Claims Secretariat has remained relatively constant for the 1995-96 fiscal year. Personnel costs have increased slightly to allow for merit increases for eligible employees. Funds for contract services have been reduced, as it is expected that there will be less need for such assistance.
The budget for the Land Claims Secretariat does not include the implementation funding to be received from the federal government under the bilateral funding agreement. These funds will begin to flow with the effective date of the settlement legislation, and will be included in further supplementary estimates for the department.
In the policy and communications branch, a small increase is proposed for the 1995-96 budget. Merit increases for eligible employees account for this increase. There is a decrease in the funding for contract services, as the planned staffing of the Federal Relations Office in Ottawa will reduce the need for contract assistance.
The budget for aboriginal language services has declined by $26,000 from the present year. This decrease has resulted from a small reduction in funding available under the Canada/Yukon agreement on aboriginal languages, as well as the fact that some of the funding, under this cost-recoverable program, has been designated for capital purchases. Within this budget, funds for the aboriginal languages community initiatives program have been increased to support language projects by First Nations and groups with an interest in the development and preservation of the territory's eight aboriginal languages.
There have been reductions in personnel and other costs, mainly as a result of the vacant interpretive position in Ross River. These services are currently being provided by the First Nation under a contribution agreement with the aboriginal languages services branch.
In the Bureau of French Language Services, this budget proposes increased spending of $41,000 for the 1995 fiscal year. This increase is the result of a reduction in the bureau's capital requirements. It will also allow for increased spending on staff delivering French language services across government. As all staff positions are now filled, a full year's funding is now required. Funding is also provided for the acquisition of French language materials for the library system, as well as an increased number of bilingual publications and signs. Overall funding for this 100-percent, cost-recoverable program is down slightly, in keeping with scheduled reductions in the funding under the Canada/Yukon agreement on French language services.
Proposed spending for the Bureau of Management and Improvement has remained largely unchanged for 1995-96. A small increase is provided in personnel costs for merit increases. This is offset by a reduction in funds provided for contract services. The overall decrease in the budget is $1,000.
Next year's budget for the Bureau of Statistics has decreased substantially from the 1994-95 fiscal year. The decrease is as a result of the fact that the national survey on health and youth will not be carried out next year. This has led to a decrease in both personnel and other expenses. As well, there is a decline in recoverable funds from Statistics Canada. Because the national survey on health and youth will be run every two years under contract to Statistics Canada, budgets for this branch will fluctuate significantly from year to year.
There is a small decrease in the budget for the Commissioner's Office for the 1995-96 year. Funds that have been budgeted in past years for temporary office support during the administrative assistant's annual leave have been dropped. Instead, temporary support will be provided from existing resources within the department.
The proposed budget for the Cabinet Office is decreased for the coming year as a result of significant reductions and allocations for ministerial travel and entertainment.
There is an increase in personnel funds. This provides for additional funds for the position of director of research, as it has been determined this position is needed on a full-time basis, and it provides for merit increases for Cabinet staff. Merit increases were recently given to eligible Members of the Cabinet staff. These were the first increases awarded since the government assumed office more than two years ago.
In conclusion, the spending for this department decreased again in 1995-96. This is the third year in a row that there have been reductions in the estimates for the Executive Council Office. Since 1992-93, the budget has dropped by $1.38 million. At the same time, the Executive Council Office continues to offer the same range of quality programs and services to Cabinet, to other departments and to Yukoners. With careful budgeting and spending, we have also been able to provide a chief negotiator to help ensure the speedy settlement of the remaining land claims and the effective implementation of our obligations to Yukon First Nations as well as the devolution of increased responsibilities from the federal government.
Mr. Penikett: Maybe I could begin at the end and note that the Government Leader has indeed cut the budget of the ECO and he claims that he has done that without having any negative effect on the operations of the department, but obviously the record will show that there have been no major policies developed or coordinated by the ECO since he came into office; there have been no final land claims agreements completed and no programs devolved. So it would be hard to prove that the Department of Executive Council Office is as productive as it was formerly in spite of the cuts. It may be that the cuts have contributed to the lack of progress on either the policy front, the claims front or the devolution front.
That is a comment. I will ask the Government Leader a question now. I have a number of inquiries that the government took notice of when we were in general debate. I am not going to ask him for all of them now, but I would like to ask if the Government Leader could indicate when we might be getting some of the answers. I would like some of them before we get into Finance, because some have a bearing on the economic development debate. There are some outstanding questions, for example, about a somewhat smaller matter, about exactly how much time the Cabinet communications advisor and other ECO staff spent on the mid-term report, to which we have no answer yet.
Based on the experience of the last budget, our caucus has some concerns about the late
receipt of answers from the government. I would just like the Government Leader to know
that, in his capacity as Minister of Finance.
For that reason, we will be disinclined to want to give a final clearance to the departmental lines in the budget until we have all the information. Let me state this, just for the record, so that the Government Leader understands the concern. Last session we had a flood of replies that all came right at the end of the sitting. In other words, they were useless to us in terms of pursuing further information or detailed inquiries, or following up on some of the matters. The second problem was that the practice had changed from previous years when these were formally tabled in the Legislature or Committee by the Clerk, so that we had a record of them. In one case, recently, I went to follow up on an issue in this session, on which the debate had been unfinished in the previous session, and knew that I had had a written reply from the Minister, but there was no record of it anywhere. I subsequently discovered that it was one of the replies that had come on the very last day that we were sitting and therefore had not been properly documented. It is not a partisan issue, but obviously it makes our work on this side of the House harder to do and a bit more frustrating.
I wonder if I could ask the Government Leader if to his knowledge - I have mentioned a couple of outstanding questions - any of those answers are imminent. I understand we will be moving shortly into the Finance debate in order to facilitate his attendance at a Finance Ministers meeting. He will recall that on that matter, which Janet Moodie-Michael will not know about, there were a whole series of questions there about revenues, which I would obviously like to get to before we start the Finance estimates.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought that the Members opposite had pretty well received
everything they had requested from the ECO. If there are a couple of replies outstanding,
we will try to get those to them as expediently as possible. The Member opposite seems to
have some concerns about how they are tabled. Does the Member opposite say that he wants
all the information that is requested in Committee replied to as legislative returns so
that they are recorded? If that is the case, I guess we can do it that way. I do not have
difficulty with that.
I thought we made it very clear the other day where we are with the mid-term report. I am still of the opinion that, if the Members opposite want to pursue that, we should pursue it at Members' Services Board, along with the allocation of caucus funding. We have to have the ability to do our jobs.
With respect to the questions about Finance, the Department of Finance is compiling all of that information. I thought it would be appropriate to table it at the beginning of the Finance debate; however, if the Members would like to have it earlier than that, I will see if I can expedite it. While I am on my feet, in view of the fact that we will be doing both the capital and maintenance budgets together, I should make some comments on the capital budget at this time.
The proposed capital budget for this department is $165,000, which is not a lot. That figure represents an increase of $48,000 from the current year. The department has had limited capital budgets over the past few years. The increase reflects the fact that from time to time it is necessary to replace equipment that is no longer functioning or to purchase equipment that is required to support departmental operations and service to clients.
The Cabinet and management support branch contains the department's budget for all office equipment except that which is purchased from recoverable funds. A total of $93,000 is budgeted in the 1995-96 fiscal year. It will be used for computer equipment and photocopiers. The Executive Council Office has computer equipment that dates back to the mid-1980s. The equipment is obsolete and no longer provides a level of technology required to support departmental activities. The equipment to be purchased will be that of a standard to enhance productivity and allow the department to maintain quality services. Units will be located where they can best support productivity. The department also has plans to replace two worn-out photocopiers. Copiers are considered obsolete after five years. These units are older than that and the service costs involved in maintaining these units, and the down time associated with that, make it necessary to replace them.
The estimates for the Land Claims Secretariat provide for the initial vote authority for the capital expenditures related to the implementation of the first four First Nation final agreements and the territory-wide provisions of the umbrella final agreement. Implementation funds will flow from the federal government within 30 to 60 days of the effective date of the settlement of the legislation. Because the effective date of the legislation has not yet been set, an initial vote authority of $1.00 has been established in this budget. Depending upon the effective date of the legislation, some funds may be voted in future supplementary estimates in both 1994-95 and 1995-96.
Implementation funds are being assigned to the Executive Council Office, except those being given to the boards and councils to provide for effective coordination of expenditures related to the implementation of claims agreements.
Planning aimed at identifying the allocation of capital funds is underway with other departments. The results of this planning will be brought forward in the form of specific projects outlined in the supplementary estimates.
The budget provides $11,000 for the policy and communications branch. Two specific purchases are planned to support the operations of the branch photography unit. A silver nitrate recovery system will be acquired in order to dispose of solutions used in developing prints, in accordance with the current hazardous-waste guidelines of the City of Whitehorse. As well, the photography unit's black-and-white processor will be replaced; the current processor is broken. Black-and-white processing work is being sent out of the Yukon because the work is not done by local firms. Replacement is seen as the most viable option, because of the costs associated with continuing to have this work done privately by outside firms. The materials cost to produce black-and-white prints in house are about 50 cents; in contrast, the cost of having this work done outside the territory is about $7, plus freight and charges. In addition, in-house processing allows the work needed by departments to be completed as required. A minimum of four days is required if processing is sent to firms outside of the territory.
For aboriginal language services, $18,000 has been provided in recoverable funds. This budget will provide funding to replace computers with equipment that better meets the requirements of the aboriginal language programming. The current equipment is not capable of running specialized language software. By replacing selected computers, the branch will be working with hardware and software that is suited to aboriginal languages. It is also working with the software that is compatible with the other institutions that are working with aboriginal language development, both locally and in the Northwest Territories and Alaska. This will assist with cooperative projects that the branch undertakes with the other stakeholders in the language field. An old photocopier in the aboriginal language services branch will also be replaced this year because it is subject to frequent breakdown, and it is not economical to continue to repair it.
There is $23,000 provided in French language services for two purposes: to assist in the growing requirements for French language translation, a major piece of specialized computer equipment and software used for translating will be upgraded; as well, funds have been allocated to replace two obsolete computers used for delivery of French language services in the Department of Health and Social Services, and the installation of new computers.
This department will have access to computer networks used for the delivery of French language services, allowing for the electronic transmission of information. The cost of this equipment is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government as Canadian heritage under the current Canada/Yukon agreement on French languages.
Under the Bureau of Statistics, $20,000 in recoverable funds has been provided for the maintenance of the bureau's computer network. Several upgrades are planned that will allow large volumes of data to be processed more quickly. Connections to other electronic databases will also be expanded, allowing for a greater ability to receive and share electronic information.
These purchases will be paid for with funds provided by Statistics Canada as part of the bureau's contract to provide services for Statistics Canada in the Yukon.
In conclusion, as I noted at the outset, these capital estimates for the Executive Council Office have increased this year. I would also point out that the department has had relatively small capital budgets in recent years, as scheduled replacement of equipment has been deferred. It is now necessary to replace the equipment, which has been in use for several years and is no longer functional. Other necessary purchases come from recoverable funds, which make up one-third of the department's capital budget.
The department has kept its estimates to the minimum necessary to obtain the equipment and support the high level of productivity required for the delivery of quality services.
Mr. Penikett: Other Members may have questions on the capital side of this budget, but I would like to return to a couple of issues I raised in response to the Government Leader's earlier statement on the operating side.
First of all, I would be interested in knowing if the entire $130,000 attributed to the creation of the new position of land claims and devolution coordinator is for the salary and benefits of that one individual, or does it imply some additional staff to assist that person?
The second question is related. I asked about an organization chart last week so I could see what the structure and arrangement of the organization was. Other Members may have it, but I do not.
The government has already made reference to the implementation funding that will be coming, and it will figure in a future supplementary. Just to assist us now, because I forget the details of the implementation agreement, how much money can we expect in this fiscal year under that arrangement?
Finally, I would like to make a comment about legislative returns. I understand the burden for the Clerk's Office in having to document a large number of legislative returns, and I am not proposing that that is the only solution to the problem I have identified. My caucus and I are willing to discuss mutually satisfactory arrangements. The problem is that all of us, on this side, have finite funding and limited staff. It is not convenient for us to replicate the entire government filing systems, or even the kind of files that were - or could be - maintained by the Clerk's Office on these kinds of things.
The Government Leader may not yet appreciate this, being new to the House, but there is an old saying, "There is almost nothing new under the sun," which is particularly true with respect to the debates on almost every subject to which legislators, over the years, keep returning. For that reason, it is extremely useful to have not just the Hansard record, but also records of written replies to questions raised in Hansard. Often that is the other half of the information we need as background for the discussion.
I will give the Government Leader an example to illustrate what I mean: in the last
session, I asked some questions about costs associated with the ongoing prosecution of Dr.
Branigan over the years. I know that this is a longstanding matter; it was going on during
the time I was in government. I wanted to get a handle on the total costs. After some
time, but not undue delay, I had a written reply from the Minister. At one time, that
would have been tabled as a legislative return. I would have been able to go to the
records in the Clerk's Office and simply look it up. Because it came on the final day of
the sitting, and may or may not have become known as a legislative return - I am not sure
- it was very hard to find. That is a nuisance, because I tied up a staff person for one
or two hours doing something that should have taken only five minutes. This is not
efficient. It is not a good use of money and it is frustrating to me.
I understand there were some frustrations on the government side about the legislative return system. That is fine. Let us talk about it and try to find a mutually satisfactory way to make sure there is an adequate record of the information. My own view is that one option is to append such replies to the official record, because the questions asked in the House have formal replies to them, which are on the record. Having said that, I do not want to see us get into the practice, such as operates in the House of Representatives in the United States, where Members are allowed, if they wish, to deem read into the record fat books and reports, which the people preparing the congressional record then have to print every day. They have to print hundreds and hundreds of pages of words that were not actually said in the debate at all. I would not like to see that.
It seems to me that someone, not just me, down the road is going to have a problem if they cannot find the replies to questions that are clearly on the record, if they are not either formally tabled or formally recorded in some way. Different parliaments have different ways of doing things. In the Swedish parliament, for example, there is even a log tabled of all the correspondence to and from the Prime Minister. As a research tool, that is very useful because it allows people to quickly find substantive letters - and not just Christmas greetings, obviously - and substantive policy matters.
My point now is to simply address the problem of continuity, to ensure that when we ask a question that we do get an answer; if we do not get an answer, we know who to ask about it, and if we have an answer that we need to be able to find again, we can follow up on it in a timely way.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The increase is not $130,000 as the Member opposite indicates, but $59,000, which is strictly personnel costs. As I said, the overall budget is down for the department. I hope I have clarified that for the Member.
Regarding the tabling of documents, I do not want the Member opposite to get the idea that I was resisting producing the answers through legislative returns. My understanding is there are 35 copies that have to be made. We were trying to provide the answers just by handing them out during debate - and I sympathize with the Member opposite that it is hard to track them that way. I would be prepared to sit down with the Member opposite, either in the Members' Services Board, or whatever way, to see if there is a more appropriate way to handle them. In the meantime, if the Member wants them produced as a legislative return, we can do that - except for very heavy documents, which, when we table them, I will ask Members if they want them produced as a legislative return. That may be one way of handling it.
Mr. Penikett: I would be happy to discuss it in any forum the Government Leader chooses, including the Members' Services Board. Let me just say for myself, as a personal preference, I would just as soon have one legislative return and one copy of it, which would be in the Clerk's Office, but there would be a log of it, and if I need the information - I understand some caucuses have access to 20th century Xerox machines or copying machines; we do not in our office; we have one that sometimes works, and the Government Leader has addressed that in this budget - it should not be too difficult, if they are in some kind of ring binder or log, to take them out and copy them right in the Clerk's Office and put the original back, or ask the staff to do it if they are worried about losing them. So, the Member would know it is there, because it is in a log or on the Order Paper where there is a list at the back of returns that have been filed.
I do appreciate the concern about paper. Sometimes we will get a legislative return that has a simple one-sentence reply on it. That seems to me very wasteful and if there are a number of returns from one department perhaps they can be combined on a single sheet of paper. I do not have a problem with that and do not want to sound as if I am speaking in defence of the 35-copy system.
The reason I asked the question, of course, about the budgeting is because the original question I asked led to the Government Leader's answer, which led to the second question, which dealt with the Cabinet management and support line and which had apparently gone up 17 percent. That is why I was looking at that, but we can get into it when we get to the line, if the Government Leader wishes.
There was one thing I want to ask about money. We have a new position: a land claims
implementation/devolution coordinator. We previously had someone doing devolution
coordinating, did we not, and was there not somebody assigned for the last couple of years
to do devolution coordinating as well?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a devolution officer in the Executive Council Office. That position is still there, although the individual who holds it is working mostly in policy and planning right now. We will be addressing that to see if there is a role for him to play on the devolution side or if a realignment of the office will be done. For devolution, I felt that someone at a higher level was required, which was why I combined that position with the chief land claims negotiator position.
Mr. Penikett: How about implementation coordination? My memory is a fallible instrument - I know that. However, when I was in government, we were talking about a properly funded implementation office that would have a number of people in it, because implementation of land claims is going to take a number of years and involve some quite complex work, with 14 First Nations eventually. I thought we were already beginning to allocate, if not people, some of the time of some of the existing staff to that work, even at the time I was in government.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Our idea is that the negotiations unit is responsible for negotiating the land claims and self-government agreements with the remaining 10 First Nations. The implementation and First Nations relations unit is responsible for coordinating implementation agreements that have been finalized - territory-wide provisions of the umbrella final agreement. These positions are all within the Land Claims Secretariat.
Mr. Penikett: The organization chart may answer this question. The impression is being created, from the statements in the throne speech and the budget, that the land claims implementation/devolution coordinator is directly under ECO and not on the line for the Land Claims Secretariat and that the implementation function now carried out by Land Claims Secretariat staff will now be removed from that office and put under the leadership of the land claims implementation/devolution coordinator, somewhere else in the ECO organization. That should be reflected in changes to the allocations of money in these lines - should it not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As chief land claims negotiator, he was ultimately responsible for the implementation anyway, so I do not believe there is any change in that. I will get the organization chart for the Member opposite as quickly as we can - it is hoped that it will be sometime this afternoon, if possible - so that he can peruse it, and then maybe it will answer the concerns he has in that respect.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate that, and it may well answer the questions, but let me be clear about some of the issues I want to address. The person who is the land claims implementation/devolution coordinator is a person who has been at deputy minister rank. Indeed, he has been the ranking public servant in the government, as the Cabinet secretary and, therefore, the chair of the deputy ministers review committee. The Government Leader has previously said, perhaps consistent with that level of responsibility, that he will be reporting directly to the Government Leader, which, with the exception of political staff, suggests someone of deputy minister rank or equivalent.
The Government Leader also has a deputy minister in this department to whom the Land Claims Secretariat has always reported, one way or the other. It is suggested here that there is a fairly profound change in the organization's structure, where the Land Claims Secretariat will now report - rather than use a title - to Mr. McTiernan, as will at least the one devolution person who has been assigned to that task up to now. During my time, that devolution coordinator was for the whole government. That position then became a devolution officer, in some subsequent reorganization, or evolution - and maybe other staff was associated with it. These people will report not to the deputy minister of ECO; they will report to Mr. McTiernan, creating, if you like, almost another department within the ECO umbrella. That raises new questions about coordination and about the relationship between those functions and other ones in ECO. Having the organization chart will certainly answer some of them, but it may also raise others that we will want to ask.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate what the Member opposite is saying and I think we had better get the organization chart before we begin saying, "Well, I suppose..." or "It could be this way."
Mr. Penikett: So that we are not wasting time, we have a new organization structure. Going with that, there should be goals and objectives of not only the department - probably restated, I assume, although I do not see that here to reflect that - there also should be terms of reference for job descriptions, which I would like to see for any new positions, including Mr. McTiernan's, and any new terms of reference that describe the function. I understand, of course, the implementation function, although long anticipated, is new. If there is a document that neatly sums up the activities of that branch, I would like to see it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will get that information back to the Member.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Cable: I am not sure what we are going to do with the ECO debate. I think it
is difficult to move on to a conclusion when we have this rather important issue hanging
in the air, that is the terms of reference for the land claim negotiator and what the
organization chart is going to look like. I gather it is clearly not the organization
chart that is presented at pages 2-4 of the operation and maintenance budget. Am I on the
right wavelength there?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding only differs from what is in the main estimates. I do not have them right here. The Land Claims Secretariat would report to the chief land claims negotiator now.
Mr. Penikett: That is not the only change. Of course, all those people report to the deputy minister Cabinet secretary, which is no longer the case, according to what the Government Leader told us the other day. We were told that Mr. McTiernan would report directly to the Government Leader. We heard this afternoon that the Land Claims Secretariat and devolution people, who are on the left-hand side of this chart, will be reporting to Mr. McTiernan. With the greatest of respect, that is a profound change in the organization of the Executive Council Office, and it is not reflected in this chart, as Mr. Cable points out.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The devolution person will not be reporting to Mr. McTiernan. We have not yet decided what we are going to do with that position. That person is now working in policy and planning most of the time, which may be restructured. However, it is not intended that he will answer to the chief land claims negotiator.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the next obvious question: how can Mr. McTiernan do the fairly significant job of coordinating devolution with no staff assigned to that task?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: He will get support and help from the policy and planning part of the Executive Council Office. It is important that devolution and land claims are not separated, because it would then be very cumbersome to talk with First Nations about land claims and the devolution of responsibilities from Ottawa in the same breath. We would have a very cumbersome system if we were to set up a separate devolution system when, in my opinion, land claims and devolution go hand in hand, as they must, so that everyone is aware of what is happening.
Mr. Penikett: I do not disagree with what the Government Leader says. Listening to the First Nations, the suggestion may be that, rather than going hand in hand, they may be getting into hand-to-hand combat fairly soon.
The Government Leader suggested that the policy and communications branch, which has suffered from some of the cuts in government and is a separate box on the existing chart, will be giving Mr. McTiernan some assistance in his role as devolution coordinator.
Will the people in policy and communications be reporting to Mr. McTiernan or to the deputy minister, or will there be a split in the staff of that unit, so that some will report to Mr. McTiernan and some will report to the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, they will be reporting to the deputy minister. We will be making them available to Mr. McTiernan, if he requires them. The role of the Executive Council Office is to facilitate these things.
Mr. Penikett: That puzzles me. I have just said that it is my view - and, I gather, the view of the Government Leader - that the devolution coordination task is a fairly sizeable one. The Government Leader has indicated that he believes that the task is sizeable, and that the policy and communications staff will assist Mr. McTiernan. There are, however, no staff specifically assigned to him with respect to those duties, other than the people in the Land Claims Secretariat whose role will be divided between negotiators and implementors.
I will not ask a question; I will just make a suggestion. The Government Leader may find, as almost everyone in government does, that asking staff to report to two masters, or, as in the old Greek saying, "trying to serve two masters", is a very difficult thing. If Mr. McTiernan has, or is being treated as having, deputy minister rank still, and reports directly to the Government Leader, and there is another deputy minister in the department, with people of lower rank being asked to report to both of them and accept assignments from both of them, they may find their lives complicated to the point at which they might not be as efficient as they might be.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I agree with the Member opposite, but I do not expect that to happen. We will get the organization chart and outline what the Member is asking about.
I do not see the devolution process as being as big a job as the Member opposite sees it. It will be carried out by various departments. Economic Development and Renewable Resources will be involved in forestry, for example. Community and Transportation Services will be involved in the airports. The second phase of the health transfer will be handled by Health and Social Services. The people in those departments will be working on developing the policies and positions we need. Mr. McTiernan, in his capacity as land claims negotiator and devolution officer, will be involved in the negotiations of those positions.
There will be help from all across government; it will not just be coming from one section of ECO.
Mr. Penikett: I do not want to start a long debate on this, but let me just tell the Government Leader that, in my experience, there are occasions when department interests and the government's interests diverge; they may not be identical. There are even times when the department's interests may not be in the public interest. It may be different for him, but it was my experience that the biggest issues in devolution were often around finance, personnel, and policy integration, and line departments do not do any of those things well. One needs central agencies like Finance and the Public Service Commission, and one needs the Executive Council Office to make sure that the department is not in a devolved program and inheriting policies and programs that are inconsistent with the goals and objectives of the present government - it may be that way in some small area. I am not suggesting the whole program would be, otherwise one would not devolve it.
It is one thing to suggest that in negotiating with the federal government on these devolution issues one involves perhaps Public Service Commission wrapped in Finance - and sometimes even some policy analysts. However, it is quite another thing to have a senior person who has the clout to not only raise the concern about the impact on land claims negotiations with a First Nation, or the fact that we are being asked to inherit some employees who have a collective agreement that is inconsistent with what is in place for our employees, or that the arrangements for the devolved program are satisfactory in respect to staffing, equipment, facilities, property et cetera, but that the federal government is seeking to profit from this devolution at the expense of our taxpayers, or that we are potentially inheriting an underfunded program. This analyses requires - and I think that the Government Leader recognizes this by this appointment - not only a senior person but a person who can not only identify and raise an issue, but perhaps even has, if you like, the institutional clout to be able to stare down another deputy minister and say, "Excuse me, what about this? I do not want to recommend to my boss that we do this until you have sorted out a problem that may not be a problem for your department but is going to be a problem for the rest of us five, 10 or 15 years down the road." It is my experience this happens all of the time in devolution discussions.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I appreciate the Member's concerns but we have been striving to have the corporate departments working together on all these issues that transpire in government rather than line departments being off by themselves as individual governments. There has been pretty good communication through the various bodies of deputy ministers and so on, trying to work as a team, so I appreciate the Member's concerns. They are something that may arise and, if they do, we will have to deal with them.
Mr. Penikett: Let me ask the question in precise terms. Presumably when there is a draft agreement to develop a program, the Cabinet's submission would still include a place for the PSC to sign off as being satisfied with the arrangement. Presumably there is a place for Finance to sign off in terms of the arrangements being satisfied. Presumably now, given what the Government Leader said about coordination, there will be some place where the land claims person, presumably Mr. McTiernan, is going to have to sign off from that point of view. Is there also a requirement though, say in respect of a program where there may be no aboriginal interest identified, for the devolution coordinator to also have to sign off a transfer on its way into Cabinet with a Cabinet submission to approve the transfer?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not sure if I understand what the Member is saying. I would presume that, if we have a devolution submission going to Cabinet, the chief negotiator would have to sign it off. That office was involved in the negotiation of that agreement so it would certainly have to be something that was reviewed by him and agreed by his office that that is what he did devolve to the territorial government.
Mr. Penikett: Do I take it also then that there would have to be two ministerial decisions on any devolved program - the line Minister's and the Government Leader's?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Most certainly the line departments would have to be involved. That is where the position would be developed from, as I stated earlier, be it forestry or be it airports. Various line departments have those responsibilities now. They have to be involved in that debate and they certainly would have to sign it off or at least raise their concerns so that Cabinet would have the full information when it made the decision.
Mr. Penikett: I am sorry, I did not express myself well. In a formal agreement
between the federal government and the territorial government for a devolved program,
would the signatures of both the Minister for the host department - the department that
would be receiving the program - and the Government Leader be required on the devolution
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The final agreement would be between me and the Minister of DIAND.
Mr. Cable: I think we have established that the land claim negotiator is going to report directly to the Government Leader. Perhaps this next question was answered, but I am not sure what the Government Leader said. Do the individual land claim negotiators report through the Land Claims Secretariat to the deputy minister, or do they report to the land claim negotiator?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: To the land claim negotiator.
Mr. Cable: Will the supporting staff people, or whoever does research on the various aspects of the land claims, be located in the Land Claims Secretariat, or will they be under the leadership of the land claims negotiator?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Land Claims Secretariat is in one office by itself. We have land claims people responsible for land claims in various departments of government who provide information to the Land Claims Secretariat while they are in the process of developing their position - from Renewable Resources, Community and Transportation Services, and other departments from whom they get information from. Renewable Resources is greatly involved because it has some people who work almost entirely on land claims.
Mr. Cable: I think the apprehension being expressed is that the land claims negotiator will have to go to the Government Leader, and requests will have to flow back down through the Public Service to accommodate his wishes. It appears that there may be some unnecessary unwieldness programmed into this very complex negotiation. Is that a misapprehension of what is taking place?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not see any real change from what was happening before, with the exception that we now have the Deputy Minister of the ECO reporting to the Government Leader. The deputy Cabinet secretary and policy and communications coordinator are reporting to the deputy minister. On the other side, we have the Land Claims Secretariat, and the negotiators and implementation people.
Mr. Cable: I think I am beginning to understand where the Government Leader is going. Will the Deputy Minister of ECO have any land claim terms of reference whatsoever? Will all of the land claim negotiations be hived off and put under the auspices of Mr. McTiernan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct.
Mr. Cable: If you have a deputy minister in charge of a separate function, why do we even have him in the Executive Council Office? Why do we not have land claims as a separate organization?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The only valid reason for it is that it is still one administrative unit, rather than two.
Mr. Cable: Of course that would be the natural conclusion from what the Government Leader just said, but why? What are the cost savings? We have a deputy minister, assumedly drawing deputy minister pay, and a number of people reporting to him. There may be some extra pages in the budget we have to pay for, but what is the cost saving? Why are these two very important functions not accorded the importance they warrant, in view of the fact that we have this gentleman in charge of them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think the Member opposite is asking why we do not set it up as a separate department. We would then have to have finance and administrative people there. We believe this can all be handled through the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Penikett: Under the new organization chart, are there any purposes for which Mr. McTiernan will be reporting to the deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot think of any at this point.
Mr. Penikett: Given the Government Leader's previous answer about a single administrative unit, presumably for some administrative purposes, when Mr. McTiernan wants to do things like establish budgets and so forth, he will have to report to the deputy minister. Is that not correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sure there will be discussions, but I do not know if one would call it reporting. The budgets are pretty straight forward and have not changed much in the couple of years we have been here. There are going to be discussions between the two. There are ongoing discussions between 16 different departments in government.
Yes, both will be involved in putting the budgets together, but I would not call it "reporting to".
Mr. Penikett: It is unfortunate language, and I am not a great fan of hierarchy, but the fact remains, in the way we operate constitutionally, somebody has to be finally accountable for the administration of funds in the department. I take it that that is the deputy minister, not Mr. McTiernan, who does not have a separate administrative unit or finance unit, as the Government Leader says. I take it that the logic is that if there is a simple dispute - which does happen between deputies or senior officials from time to time - about the allocation of funds for Mr. McTiernan's office, for example, the normal ranking in the public service means the deputy minister would prevail or the dispute would have to be taken to the Government Leader, which could create the situation of one of those two senior officials being unhappy.
It may be a fine point, but I would really like to see the organization chart because of my concern about who the people in the policy and communications unit report to - who will be doing work for Mr. McTiernan, as the Government Leader said - combined with the question on budgets and Finance.
Would it be useful to take a short break in order to get the new organization chart? As Mr. Cable says, it would certainly help to expedite the discussion and it might save us a lot of time.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a short break?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a rough one here that may answer the question for the Member. There is nothing magic or complicated about this. It is a very simple process. We can have one drawn up later on through the department. I believe it is a very simple process, and I do not believe we need to take a break at this point.
Mr. Penikett: I obviously do not have a copy of that document. The Government Leader may think I am being unusually sweet and charitable today, but the point is that there is an organization chart in the budget that does not reflect the actual organization of the department any more, as explained in the throne speech.
The Government Leader may think it is a small point but when we are dealing with
matters affecting land claims and devolution, the two biggest policy areas of the
department, this is not small change; it is big-time stuff, so I would like to see the new
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am still waiting for my assistant to come back. Perhaps if the Members opposite have some other questions that they would like entertained at this point, I will try to answer them now.
Mr. Cable: These questions might actually be answered when the terms of reference for the land claim negotiator and the devolution negotiator are tabled. Is Mr. McTiernan being asked, on the devolution side, to set priorities and determine revenue flows? Just what specifically is he being charged with, with his devolution hat on, other than sort of thinking about it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: He will not be the one thinking about it; he will be the one negotiating it. As I said earlier, the devolution position will be developed. If we are talking about forestry, it is going to come from Renewable Resources and Economic Development. If we are talking about community airports, it will come from Community and Transportation Services. Mr. McTiernan is the negotiator and he will be drawing support from all the departments, not just from the Executive Council Office, depending upon what he is working on at the time. If he is working on land, there will be help coming from the lands branch. So he will be drawing on the resources from various departments to help fulfill his requirements, and he will be doing the negotiating.
Mr. Cable: I know the Government Leader is careful enough not to simply charge this gentleman with the job of making some devolution happen. There has to be something more specific than that.
Is there some master plan on the cadence of devolution - what has priority and what sort of revenues might flow to the government once the various aspects of federal jurisdiction are devolved? What is it that Mr. McTiernan is supposed to do, in some general sense? Is he just going to bash on with whatever happens to come out of the blue on devolution, or is there a firm plan that he is operating under?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought everybody was aware that we are in the process of
devolving forestry right now. That is the first issue with which we are trying to deal.
After that, we had the memorandum of understanding that was developed with the previous
government on land, water and minerals.
We will be reassessing this and trying to get a new memorandum of understanding on how the devolution of those responsibilities will take place. As well, Community and Transportation Services has begun negotiations with the federal government on the devolution of the Whitehorse and Watson Lake airports. All these issues are out there, and will be funneled through Mr. McTiernan to negotiate, once the general positions of government have been developed. This way, he will have some guidelines as to what positions he is supposed to be taking on behalf of the government.
Mr. Cable: Everyone has to have a sense of the prioritization of what they are doing, particularly in terms of something this complicated. Has the Government Leader worked out a master plan that outlines the government's priorities, so that Mr. McTiernan will know how to arrange for staffing and what he is supposed to be doing? Is he strictly working on devolution in general - whatever happens to come up?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I thought I just laid it out. Forestry, lands, minerals and water are the next responsibilities on which we will be working. Forestry is the one we want to resolve first. We will be doing these one at a time.
Mr. Penikett: In order to get this perfectly clear, I wonder if the Government Leader can tell me if Mr. McTiernan will be the lead hand at the negotiating table with respect to, for example, devolution negotiations? An example: if the government is negotiating the devolution of class A airports or the devolution of forestry, does the Deputy Minister of Community and Transportation Services or the deputy minister responsible for forestry lead the negotiations, or would Mr. McTiernan lead the negotiations, with people from the department at his side?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct. Mr. McTiernan will lead the negotiations with the support of the various departments.
Mr. Penikett: Mr. McTiernan is also responsible for negotiating with First Nations on land claims and is in charge of implementation. Is Mr. McTiernan responsible for leading negotiations with First Nations toward final agreements?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. McTiernan is responsible for the overall negotiations. Negotiations at the table are done by people within the Land Claims Secretariat. Mr. McTiernan steps in when they run into difficulties and talks with the different negotiators, but he is not there on a day-to-day basis doing the negotiating.
Mr. Penikett: I am just trying to understand this. Several times in the last year, First Nations that were having extraordinary difficulties with the territorial government came and complained to us about those difficulties. I will not list all of the First Nations who were having difficulties as the Government Leader knows them as well as I do. They include Klondike, Fort Selkirk, Kwanlin Dun and the list goes on. As a question of fact, how many times did Mr. McTiernan go to the table with those First Nations to help address difficulties in the last year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know how many times he went to the table. I do know that he was involved with getting the negotiators together from the federal government and the various bands and trying to resolve the issues that they were facing. I do not know how many times he actually went to the specific negotiations.
Mr. Penikett: The reason for my question is that one of the difficulties we have heard, over and over again, is the difficulty the First Nations have had in getting access to the Government Leader in order to talk about things. In some cases, they do not even get direct access to the chief negotiator; that is the reason for the question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I refute those statements, because they have had access to the chief negotiator. If they believe it is necessary to meet with me, I will do so. I am not about to meet with their negotiators. Negotiators are at one level. I will meet with the chiefs of the bands at any time they so wish, but I do not think it is the Government Leader's position or the position of any of the chiefs to be negotiating the land claims. That is what we have negotiators for.
Mr. Penikett: That was certainly my position. However, despite, I thought, my fairly forceful articulation of that position, there were occasions when I actually got drawn into meetings with the chiefs - perhaps not to negotiate - on matters of principle. Since the Government Leader has gone to pains to refute my statement, which was not really a statement, but the repetition of a representation we had heard, could he just come back to the House with the number of occasions that the chief negotiator went to the table and met with First Nations in the last year? I am sure that the chief negotiator will be able to get this information fairly quickly, although I am not in a hurry for this. I am simply requesting it for a matter of record.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: At my next meeting with the chief negotiator, I will bring that to his attention and see what we can do to get that information for the Member.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mrs. Firth: I am waiting for the organization chart as well, so that I can have a look at it. Perhaps the Minister can answer one question for me with respect to the appointment of Mr. McTiernan. Does this mean now that there will be two deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, there will not be two deputy ministers in the Executive Council Office.
Mrs. Firth: Mr. Chair, I realize now that we are waiting for the organizational charts to be brought for the Members this afternoon. As we were breaking, there was also a request made for terms of reference. Is that going to be provided to us this afternoon, as well?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The department is getting together what it can at this point for the Members opposite. I do not believe that there is much change in the terms of reference for the positions than what was there before for a chief negotiator, with the exception that they were both reporting to the deputy minister.
In the main estimates, in the summary pages, there is an organization chart. I think you need only put one more square in it, above Land Claims Secretariat and one would have the organizational chart for the department. I am not sure what more the Members are looking for. One would have one more box up above the boxes that say policy communications, Land Claims Secretariat and the other. The box for the deputy minister would be moved over and this new one would move up. The chief negotiator would answer directly to the Government Leader rather than to the deputy minister.
Mrs. Firth: The position of Mr. McTiernan is called chief negotiator. I do not know what that means, unless I see in writing what the terms of reference are for that position. I have drawn a box and put it over the Land Claims Secretariat. Does the Land Claims Secretariat and policy and communications report to the chief negotiator? Do both of the boxes beneath Land Claims Secretariat report to the chief negotiator?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Policy and communications would be answering to the deputy minister, as would the deputy Cabinet secretary. On the other side, the negotiators and implementation people would be answering to the Land Claims Secretariat, and from the Land Claims Secretariat to the chief negotiator, and from the chief negotiator to the Government Leader.
Mrs. Firth: The chief negotiator bypasses the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office. He must, in a sense, be a deputy minister as well. You are just calling the position a chief negotiator. If the deputy minister and the chief negotiator are both reporting to the Government Leader, to me that means it is like having two deputy ministers. You are just calling him a chief negotiator instead of a deputy minister of negotiations, or land claims, or whatever you want to call it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That is correct. He will retain his deputy minister status so that he can participate in DMRC and his involvement with the other departments, because land claims cuts across all government departments. It cannot be negotiated in isolation.
Mrs. Firth: If Mr. McTiernan is maintaining his DM status, then the Executive Council Office has two deputy ministers. Usually the departments have one deputy minister and one or two assistant deputy ministers, or whatever; but if Mr. McTiernan is maintaining his deputy minister status, the Executive Council Office will have two deputy ministers.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Except that the Executive Council Office people and all the people on that other side of the scale will only answer to the one deputy minister, the same as the Land Claims Secretariat will only answer to one, the chief negotiator. The reason for keeping him at the deputy minister level is so that he could be involved in the DMRC committees and debates with various departments. His being able to participate at the same level as other DMs will make the flow that much smoother.
Mrs. Firth: I understood from the Minister that the chief negotiator was going to report directly to the Minister, not through the deputy minister or Cabinet secretary.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: He reports directly to me, yes.
Mrs. Firth: I understand the whole rationale the Minister is giving me with
respect to Mr. McTiernan maintaining his DM status, but we should be accurate. If there
are two individuals in the department, one called the deputy minister who reports to the
Minister, and one called the chief negotiator who reports to the Minister and who is
maintaining his deputy minister status, I do not think I would be stretching it to say
that there are two deputy ministers. We may as well call it what it is. If this deputy
minister/cabinet secretary is one deputy minister, then the land claims chief negotiator
should be called deputy minister/land claims chief negotiator because that is really what
that individual's title and job classification will be.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: For the sake of clarification about who is the Deputy Minister of ECO, we have given the positions the current titles. I will table the organizational charts now for the Members opposite.
Mrs. Firth: Is there a tenure to the chief negotiator's position? Is there a certain term or period of time attached to it?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have not established that because we do not know how long it will take to complete the land claims negotiations. There are still 10 bands outstanding. We have not put a time period on the position.
Mrs. Firth: The interest I have is this: the person maintains a deputy minister's status, and yet is referred to as the chief negotiator. In Health and Social Services, the individual who is acting as the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services is really a person from Finance. There has been a commitment made to that individual that they will fill that capacity for two years and then have the option to go back to the Department of Finance, in the event that there is an election or the two-year term is completed.
Have there been any such similar commitments made to this individual with respect to this position? He is in the position for an undetermined length of time, but in the event that there is an election or a reorganization, will this person maintain deputy minister status? Have there been any commitments made with respect to where the individual may go?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, there are not.
Mr. Penikett: I thank the Government Leader for the new organization chart.
I previously asked if there is going to be any staff attached to Mr. McTiernan for the purpose of assisting him in the devolution negotiations. The Government Leader said no. That is reflected in the chart, although I must say, for the record, that I do not understand how one can do the job of chief negotiator for devolution with no reporting staff.
I did note that the Government Leader said that, from time to time, Mr. McTiernan may be able to call on the staff of policy and communications, one of whom was formerly called devolution officer, but whose job will not be redefined to become a policy worker of some kind. May I ask the Government Leader a general question? Is it at all possible that this organization chart may change in the coming year in respect to McTiernan's responsibilities. In other words, is there any possibility that, as the nature of his work becomes clear and the complications of concluding devolution agreements become plain, he will acquire staff who are not working on land claims or land claims implementation, but are assisting him in negotiations on devolution and may be doing some policy coordination or policy analysis work in connection with the duties he has to coordinate both land claims negotiations and devolution work?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First, I will answer the question about the position within policy and communications, which is titled devolution officer. I did not say definitely that it would be renamed; it may, in fact remain the same. We will have to see how it works. That person may be responsible for providing policy and communications to Mr. McTiernan on behalf of the Executive Council Office. That will be examined in due time, as we move along.
As I said earlier, during the devolution process Mr. McTiernan will not only be drawing on resources from within the Executive Council Office, the Public Service Commission, the Department of Finance and the other line departments that are involved in whatever is being devolved, but also from various other departments across government.
Will Mr. McTiernan have more staff at some point in the future? Yes, if it is warranted. If not, there would be no reason to do so. Nothing is carved in stone, as I am sure the Member opposite was aware when he was on this side.
If we find that Mr. McTiernan is unable to fulfill his duties in an efficient manner because there is a shortage of staff, then we will look at providing him with more.
Mrs. Firth: Is there any possibility that, in the future, the aboriginal language services would also come under the responsibilities of this individual. If so, would all the services in this particular department dealing with First Nations come under the responsibility of one individual?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have not talked about that. As the Member opposite is probably aware, aboriginal language services is funded on the same basis as French language services, and is administered by the Executive Council Office on behalf of the federal government. It is all cost recoverable.
At some time in the future, perhaps all aboriginal services within government will be under one department. Right now, we have people in various departments doing aboriginal work, some of which we pay for.
At the present time, there has been no thought given to changing that.
Mrs. Firth: That leads me to my next question. I have looked at this and have had some inquiries made by people within government who are knowledgeable about how government works. There are a lot of areas within government where First Nations programs are provided.
Is the government looking at having any one particular area responsible for all the programs provided to First Nations in the future? One of the objectives of First Nations is to take over more responsibility for program delivery. Will there come a day when these programs would no longer be delivered by YTG, but by the First Nations?
I know a lot of things are still in the negotiation phase, which we hope will come to an end one of these days, and we will then look at whether First Nations programs in YTG will be devolved to First Nations.
I see that the Government Leader is shaking his head. Does he think this is way past the year 2000? Is his government doing anything in anticipation of the possibility of devolving those responsibilities to First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, I think it would be very difficult to take all of the programs that are delivered to First Nations and put them into one. We have Education, Health, and other departments. Aboriginal languages interpretive services is under ECO. We have Yukon native teacher education program under Education and the aboriginal languages bureau at the college. They fit into the various departments that are structured to provide education, health, social services, or services such as aboriginal language translation. I believe it would be very difficult to combine them all into one department and leave them there.
What I was shaking my head about is that negotiations will be an ongoing process for many years in the Yukon. The land claims negotiations should hopefully be over in the next few years, but the way the land claims and the self-government agreements are structured, First Nations can take over responsibilities, if they so choose, at their own pace. They need not start delivering all their services immediately just because they have taken on some aspects of self-government. The way it is structured is it may extend over a period of years, and, in some instances, they may choose not to take them over anyway.
I am sure that once the dust is all settled from the land claims negotiations, the reality of the cost of administration will be very visible and transparent to all people concerned, and we will be looking for ways to deliver the services to all Yukoners in the most cost-efficient and responsible manner. In some instances, First Nations may be responsible for delivering services to non-aboriginal people in the community, as well as to their own people, rather than duplicate services.
In answer to the Member's question, I see this as an on-going process that will take many years to evolve.
Mrs. Firth: Has the Minister's department or the government made any predictions of potential costs? With increasing costs and the budgets becoming larger and larger, has the government prepared any preliminary figures on what the potential cost of the negotiating process and the ongoing land claims process could be? Is the government anticipating the budget having to increase, and is it looking at making predictions of increased percentages per year? Is it doing any planning or predicting in that area?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My opening remarks were quite lengthy so the Member may have missed them. We have not included any implementation monies in the budget because we do not know when the bills will be assented to. When they are assented to, implementation monies that were negotiated will flow to the territorial government from the federal government. I can give the Member a brief outline of that. Under the bilateral agreement, Canada will pay YTG up to $1.5 million per year, ongoing for up to 10 years - $1 million for the territory-wide responsibilities plus four Yukon First Nation final agreements and $50,000 for each subsequent First Nation final agreement. Self-government agreements are ongoing for four years at $250,000 per year. A time limited $7,540,000 total breaks down to $2.5 million to assist in the implementation of the UFA and the Yukon First Nations final agreements and $360,000 for each completed Yukon First Nation agreement. These funds will be allocated based on the current government-wide implementation planning process. Priority activities will be identified and funded on the ongoing basis.
Mrs. Firth: I heard the Minister's comments with respect to that allocation of money, and I am assuming that his department drew up these figures and made these predictions so that they could present them to the federal government as being the amount of money needed. That was really my question.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, those figures have already been agreed upon. That has all
been signed off with the federal government.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to figure out who initiated the figures - I am sure it was negotiated. Was the territorial government satisfied with this amount of money, was it close to what it had anticipated the cost to be, or was the government simply told that this was what it was going to get?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I guess the latter would be closer to the truth. We started out, still under the previous government's mandate, with a very large figure for implementation, as did the Yukon First Nations. The previous federal government found that unacceptable - these were agreements that were concluded under the Conservative government - so we had to backtrack. In the first instance, we put forward what we wanted to receive in order to do a first-class job of implementation. I am certain there could have been some fluff in it, although I do not know how much. What we ended up with was what we believe to be the bare minimum needed in order to implement our responsibilities under the land claims agreements. Having said that, there is a clause in the agreements where, I believe after three or four years, the matter can be re-addressed and can be based on more conclusive and actual costs of implementation.
It was a position we had to take because the First Nations wanted to get the agreements finalized before the Conservative government was turfed out of office - before the election. The First Nations also had to settle for a lot less money than they wanted. The Member opposite will remember that there was some debate at that time that we were holding up land claims because we would not agree to the implementation monies.
So, we made it very clear to all the parties involved that we did not have any other monies for implementation of land claims and that whatever monies were negotiated would be the monies we would use, and that would be the pace at which implementation would proceed.
The global answer to the Member opposite is that we did not get everything we wanted, and neither did the First Nations. We do believe, however, that we received enough to implement our responsibilities under the land claims.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Are we prepared to go line by line?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move you report progress on Bill No. 4.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Chair: We will be dealing with Bill No. 3, line by line.
Executive Council Office
On Operation and Maintenance
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of an underexpenditure of $73,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of an underexpenditure of $25,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of an underexpenditure of $98,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
On Computers and Equipment
Computers and Equipment in the amount of $73,000 agreed to
French Language Services in the amount of $73,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
On Computers and Equipment
Computers and Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $98,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office in the amount of $98,000 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I move you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will move to Bill No. 4.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 1995-96 - continued
Chair: We are now on Bill No. 4, operation and maintenance estimates.
Executive Council Office
On Cabinet and Management Support
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Penikett: Are we to expect that, as we go through the lines in the budget, the Government Leader will either be tabling or giving us a breakdown of these lines? We are not going to need it on every one, except where there is a significant change from year to year. Does the Government Leader have any additional information for us?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I can give a breakdown on each item if the Members so wish. The overall summary is that this branch has increased $136,000, which is a 17-percent increase. This reflects the salary and support costs for the chief land claims negotiator, responsible for claims and devolution. This is a new position and demonstrates our commitment.
The salary and support costs for this position account for the increase in program costs to Cabinet and management support.
Key changes in the budget from last year include the addition of a chief land claims negotiator and devolution position and a slight increase in other allotments to support this new position. There are no changes in the program objectives of this branch.
Mr. Penikett: I understand the changes with respect to the chief land claims negotiator, responsible for land claims and devolution. What changes are there in the Cabinet support area?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The only other increase is a minor adjustment to provide for merit increases for eligible staff. Is that what the Member opposite is asking?
Mr. Penikett: The reason I asked was because there was no specific mention of changes to Cabinet or Cabinet support. When the Minister says minor, what does minor mean, by the Government Leader's definition?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Merit increases, basically.
Mr. Penikett: Up to what?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know how many there are, but it is not a large amount of money. We do not have many staff in the department and, as the Member opposite is aware, merit increases only apply to those people who have not reached the top of the pay scale.
Mr. Penikett: Previous debates have led me to believe that what the Government Leader calls minor and what I call minor, at least in terms of my own fantasies, may be different. He may not have the number handy but Ms. Moodie-Michael will come back to us with that.
Mrs. Firth: On that particular page, under the allotment of personnel, there is an indication of a 20-percent increase. That would certainly cover the merit increases, would it not? The line is increasing it from $666,000 to $796,000. There are probably some other increases in there, but that is where the merit increase would - no? Well, perhaps I will wait for the Minister to explain it.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That particular line would cover the addition of the chief
land claim negotiator as well as merit increases.
Mrs. Firth: I believe that the Minister has given us an amount of money that was transferred for the chief land claims negotiator. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I think I have it clear now. The $59,000 figure I mentioned was for the overall increase in personnel costs for the department. This particular line will increase by $130,000 for the overall department, not just for Cabinet and management support.
Mrs. Firth: Perhaps the Minister could tell us exactly what that 20-percent increase is in the personnel allotment line. There is an increase of $130,000 there. What is that specifically for?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: That will cover the salary and merit increases of the negotiator.
Mrs. Firth: The merit increase of $59,000 is included, and then subtracted from the $130,000. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: What I was saying regarding the first $59,000 figure is that we are spending $59,000 more in 1995-96 on overall personnel for the department. This line has gone up by the addition of the chief negotiator and merit pay increases. The $130,000 would cover that expense.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mrs. Firth: I am just trying to understand this. Do I subtract the $59,000 from the $130,000 increase? I am trying to find out how much money has been transferred for the chief negotiator and how much money has been allocated for merit increases? They have said that there is $59,000 overall in the department for merit increases - no, they are not saying that. Perhaps the Minister can explain to us exactly how much is for merit increases and how much is for the land claims negotiator?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: As I said, we will have to break the merit increases down because we do not have them. These are personnel costs, but when you get to the other various parts of the department, there are also personnel costs included. We will have to separate the merit pay increases from those numbers. In some areas of the department, personnel costs have gone down; in other areas, they have gone up. The overall increase in personnel costs is $59,000 for the whole department, including Cabinet and management support.
Mr. Cable: Does the government keep computerized records of the gross merit increases for all departments for each fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know. I can check with the Public Service Commission or Finance to see if they have a gross figure or not. We can try to provide it. Is the Member asking for a global figure of the merit increases for the fiscal year across government? Is he looking for a total figure? I can try to bring that figure back for the Member opposite in the Finance debate.
Mr. Cable: Yes, either then or in the Public Service Commission debate. The rumour mill is alive with rumours to the effect that the government is shoveling out merit increases, perhaps by way of atonement for the Public Sector Restraint Act. It would be useful to see whether or not that rumour is correct.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know what one calls "shovelling out". The merit increase is four percent to employees who have not reached the top of their pay scale. I do not know how many that is across government. It seems to me that the ratio broke down to about 60-40, but I am not sure if it is 60 percent who are due for merit increases, or only 40 percent.
I will have that figure in either the Public Service Commission debate or the Finance debate.
Mrs. Firth: Are those merit increases automatic?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They are not supposed to be, but that is basically the way they have evolved over the years, in my understanding.
Mr. Penikett: Surely the Government Leader is not suggesting that under his administration people without merit are receiving increases?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not at all. This is carried out by the departments. As politicians, we do not have anything to do with it. They have their own system of interviewing. My understanding is that, even before our being in government, it was almost an accepted practice across the departments.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Administration/Secretariat in the amount of $928,000 agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support in the amount of $928,000 agreed to
On Land Claims Secretariat
Mr. Penikett: I recall that, shortly after he was elected, the Government Leader indicated that he hoped to have land claims wrapped up within a year or two. He is now well into the third year of his administration. How many First Nation final agreements does the Government Leader hope to achieve within the next year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We need not say that the Leader of the Official Opposition does not ask difficult questions in the Legislature.
I do not know the answer. We are working on it and they are progressing, as frustrating as it may be for the Member opposite as it is for us and all Yukoners, but we are making progress.
My understanding is that the maps for the interim protection for the Dawson band are going ahead, and we are going to be applying for interim protection for the lands there. With that in place, it should move along fairly quickly.
Kluane First Nation is starting its land claims negotiation. We do not expect that one to be very difficult on which to reach agreement. The one that is very, very difficult, and I will certainly be the first person to say so, is the Kwanlin Dun negotiation; it will probably be the most difficult one of any we have to negotiate.
I could not tell the Member how many will be done in the next year. I hope at least a couple.
Mr. Cable: A couple of years ago the government cut off the funding to the Association of Yukon Communities - the money that would flow to the various municipalities to make the land claims work. This is not specifically under the Land Claims Secretariat, perhaps, but in the general principle of making land claims work, is the Government Leader prepared to reconsider that posture - the shutting down of funding to the Association of Yukon Communities?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware that there ever was any money dedicated to municipalities for land claim negotiations. Maybe I will sit down and let the Member opposite answer.
Mr. Penikett: I do not know what has happened to it, but there was at one time some money dedicated in Community and Transportation Services for the creation of a position that was devoted entirely to land claims, to ensure that the view and concerns of the municipalies were represented by this government at the land claims table. For awhile, the possibility was mooted around that somebody could work both for the municipalities and YTG, though I was very firmly of the view that one cannot serve two masters.
There may also have been a time when some money was provided directly to AYC to do
research. I do not know whether that continued, but the issue of the needs and concerns of
the municipalies were, in my view, best addressed by the decision, with First Nation
consent, to include municipal representatives in the YTG caucuses or negotiating teams at
the tables. Failing that, if it was not agreeable to a First Nation to have a municipality
present, and there was only one instance in the Yukon where that was the case, YTG
guaranteed to provide briefings to that municipality about the progress of negotiations.
The position in the Department of Community and Transportation Services, which was dedicated entirely to land claims, was held, at one point, by a Conservative candidate whose name has slipped my mind.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Yes, David Leverton. He had that job at one point.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: At any rate, the federal government is responsible for providing money for land claim negotiations, not the territorial government. They were not prepared to provide any money to the municipalities. What they say is that the cost of negotiating any service agreements with the municipalities will have to be incorporated into the cost of the service agreement.
Mr. Cable: I was not thinking about that. Making the land claims work is, of course, primarily a chore of people at the community level, once the high-priced help is finished inking all of the agreements. The people on the ground will have to make them work. If the people on the ground are not adequately apprised of what is going on or are not properly funded, there may be unnecessary problems arise in the course of the implementation of the agreements.
I am just wondering whether the Government Leader sees that as a proper function of the territorial government, rather than us trying to lean on the federal government for that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Absolutely not. The land claim negotiations and the judiciary responsibility is between the First Nations and the federal government. The territorial government plays a role in it. Also, the breakdown of funding after land claims will be somewhat different from what it is now. As we said, the municipalities will not have to bear any costs of activities arising directly from the implementation of the land claim and the self-government agreements. That will come under the implementation funding. We do not have the resources to pick up the ball for the federal government, as we have been asked to do in many cases - moreso now that they are having serious financial difficulties. It is just not appropriate for them to expect us to assume that funding.
Mr. Cable: I am not suggesting that there be many millions of dollars devoted to it, but the numbers that ring a bell from a few years ago, I think, were something like $40,000 and $25,000 to the Association of Yukon Communities to be passed on to the communities. I may have the numbers wrong, and when we get to the Community and Transportation Services debate, we can enlarge the scope of the debate. Unless the municipalities - which will be dealing directly with the First Nations over matters of zoning and such - are properly funded and properly apprised of all of the ramifications of the agreements - that may not work that well - is the Government Leader suggesting that everything is a responsibility of the federal government in the course of implementation?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, the municipalities receive a substantial amount of money in block funding from the territorial government. As far as the municipalities being up to date on what is happening, each one of them is involved in negotiations, as the Leader of the Official Opposition said, when the land claims are being negotiated in their particular area. There should be no direct costs to the municipalities as a result of land claims.
Mr. Cable: I am not suggesting that. I am not really talking about it in legal terms. I am talking about making the land claims work. Obviously, the people on the ground have to know what is going on, and certainly require some assistance in making it work. We just cannot let the communities hang out to dry once these things are inked. Does the Government Leader not see this government being responsible to work with the municipalities to ensure that the land claims work?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are fulfilling those responsibilities. The municipalities are fully involved in the negotiations as we go along. We do not have pools of money to distribute because someone believes it is going to cost them money. As I have said, the service agreements will be negotiated with the municipalities, if and when those come along. The cost of negotiating those agreements will be a portion of the cost of the agreement.
Mr. McDonald: I have a brief policy question with respect to funding for land claims. Does it still hold true that, should the federal government negotiate the assumption of a self-government responsibility with a First Nation and provide some funding, the federal government comes to the Yukon government to seek a reduction in the transfer payments to account for the reduced level of responsibility by the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: In a short sentence, yes, but it has to by demonstrated savings to the territorial government. We have to pass on whatever savings we would have from First Nations taking over responsibility for the delivery of those services.
Mr. McDonald: Have there been any discussions to date about any particular service or new responsibility that a First Nation would assume that could effectively cost the Yukon government some funding?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not aware of any negotiations that are going on at the present time. I believe all the parties have been too busy trying to finalize the first four band agreements. Once that is out of the road, I believe the issue of service agreements will start to play themselves out as a First Nation feels comfortable in taking over the responsibility for delivery of the service. At the present time, I am not aware of any one that is under negotiation.
Mr. McDonald: Can the Minister tell us whether or not it is still the case that the Yukon government is hesitant to enter into negotiations with First Nations for self-government activities when there is the expectation that these activities will be funded under the claim in some way under self-government powers? In particular, I am thinking of child welfare agreements, which are termed pilot projects and have been announced in the last year or two. I know of one in Ross River. Are these pilot project agreements expected to ultimately be funded by the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: These agreements that we have been entering into are just that, pilot projects - the manner in which they may be picked up. They are not entered into without some thinking about the impact they may have on the issue of funding in the future. The issues we are looking at are issues whereby the delivery of services we provide are, in some cases, being handled by the First Nation. In some cases, on a pilot project basis, we are entering into agreements that allow or provide for the delivery of a service to the entire community and we supplement their financing with some of ours. In the pilot project, for example, on alcohol and drug prevention, we are providing for two person years, which is in addition to and complements the money being put in by other funding sources, including the federal government and the First Nation. We do not foresee in any of these situations where there would be some kind of penalty imposed by virtue of a self-government agreement being arrived at in the future.
Mr. McDonald: To use the cases of Health and Social Services, as the Minister
appears to be familiar with them, do the pilot projects have clauses or statements within
them that the Yukon government will bear no long-term responsibility for these particular
areas and that the federal government will pick up the expense in the future - is that the
case? Are we confident of that? As a corollary, is there some sense or some hint that the
service levels that are being funded under the pilot projects are, in fact, service levels
accepted by the federal government and, should the responsibility for funding be
transferred to that government, will they maintain those service levels?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It would have to be examined on a case-by-case basis. To use the example of the alcohol and drug pilot project, it is for a definite number of years. At the end of the period, if there was a change in circumstances, we may not want to use our funding to complement what has been provided by, in this case, the Kaska Tribal Council. We may want to pull back and have our own people providing the service. So long as what they are doing is coordinating the provision of services to all the people in the two communities, right now, we are quite content with the way it is going. There is no duplication. The money is being used to complement and give a greater continuity of service to clients.
If we enter into any agreement, we will go to great pains to ensure that the wording in no way impacts on self-government negotiations.
Mr. McDonald: Is this an accepted position by the federal government? Obviously it is the federal government that will consider whether or not the Yukon government has occupied a field. Their opinion certainly counts, and if they feel we have occupied a field and are providing or funding certain services, that will have some impact on whether or not they feel they should be seeking some funding from the Yukon government's base budget, if the Yukon government decides it is willing to continue funding this thing in perpetuity.
What is the federal government's position?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They do not stay in one spot. It is a moving target. That is why we are particularly careful about the Kaska situation. They are partners in providing some of the funding. The documents, too, are carefully worded legally to the effect that it ends at the end of three years, unless we wish to continue in partnership.
With regard to the continuing requests from First Nations for various kinds of support in all the fields in health and social services, it is one of the primary issues we have to address each time we do move forward with a proposal to assist a First Nation with funding a position, whether it is in the drug and alcohol field or child welfare or whatever it may be. Each agreement is one in which we take great pains to try to ensure that there is not a penalty imposed on us as a result of self-government down the road.
I can think of some examples right now that are topical. There is a continuing demand to DIAND by the Kwanlin Dun for a child welfare transitional worker to work with the band to learn the delivery of child welfare and also to be the liaison between our people and the band. We support them in having that position funded by DIAND but, so far, it has not come to fruition. It is a position that is clearly the responsibility of DIAND and one that is funded by it in other jurisdictions. We would not be able to fund that position ourselves because of the dangerous precedent it could set for a self-government situation down the road.
Mr. McDonald: Is it the policy of the government then that all pilot project funding of this nature, whether in this department or in other departments, only provides the same level of service that currently exists, but simply moves to change the delivery agent, that is, from the Yukon government to the First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, there could be an enhancement of services. Such was the case in the pilot project in Watson Lake, where money became free because we shut down, I believe it was, the Watson Lake group home about that time. We then used that money for an enhancement of the provision of drug and alcohol counselling. In that situation, they are simply the delivery agent for us. It does not prevent us from enhancing the service and having them continue as the delivery agent. That may be a bad example. For example, in a situation like that we might add a full person year for aftercare, but it would be for the entire community. It would really be for the non-First Nation community that our funding was put forward. However, they would be allocating it in such a way that they provide the best united continuum of services for all First Nation people. Our funding, therefore, is not tied to an individual, it is simply funding that we can withdraw. It just happens to amount to a person year.
Mr. McDonald: I appreciate that the Minister is indicating that the documents are tightly worded to say that they are without prejudice to the land claim, but I want to get some sense that the government accepts this notion in writing, or at least verbally across the land claims negotiating table. We have made many good arguments in the past, in formula financing discussions, et cetera, about how we should make an argument to plead for more funding or for a fair level of funding, or to eliminate the perversity factor for example, in the formula financing agreement itself, where the federal government's negotiators will say, "Well, you may have a good argument, but our overriding concern is to cut funds."
If they feel that there is even a ghost of a chance to cut funds, or the slightest excuse, they will. Obviously that would be eliminated if there was something in the agreement that said that in any agreement made with the signatories to the pilot project or some other overriding agreement in land claims negotiations, where a pilot project has been initiated and there is an enhancement to a level of service, they will not hold it against the Yukon government for making the attempt to enhance the service, and that ultimately it will be a field occupied by the federal government, in terms of providing funding.
Is there anything in writing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: This is one of the great difficulties in entering into a pilot project with the federal government. As the Member has said, the agreements are tightly worded but it does not preclude the federal government from dropping out and that the people demand that the territorial government pick it up. I believe the case in point is the stay-in-school counsellor in Dawson City. This is a project that was negotiated without our involvement; it was strictly between the federal government and the band. The federal government eliminated the position, and I understand we have budgeted for it this year, because we believe it is a good position.
Again, we are continually bombarded by the federal government with those kinds of situations. It is trying to save money, as the Member opposite has said, and it will do its darndest to cut us, no matter what. We can make all kinds of good arguments, but it does not matter what was written into the agreement to have the federal government provide the funding.
This is a situation we are always faced with.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has identified a situation where the federal government initiated a pilot project and raised expectations. Then, when the funding is cut, the Yukon government, being closest to the scene, is the first government tackled to provide funding for that particular project. Obviously, the stay-in-school initiative was one of those examples.
I am thinking in terms of pilot projects initiated by the Yukon government. I do not think anybody is taking issue with the usefulness of a pilot project other than to say that, in some cases, a particular pilot project should have covered more bands or people who were ready to assume certain levels of service. The issue is whether or not we are comfortable that when we enhance a level of service through a pilot project - or change a level of service from what we had historically been responsible for - on the eve of self-government implementation and despite our best efforts on the wording, we are not inadvertently raising the stakes or raising the level of so-called historic responsibility, and consequently cannot expect to have the federal government ultimately pick up this level of activity.
I remember a case in my own riding of Mayo that I found quite concerning, where the Renewable Resources Council was being funded under the land claims agreement. The concern was, when the land claims agreement is finalized and funds are transferred, et cetera, will the federal government consider that we had occupied the field of funding renewable resource councils? If they did, we would be on the hook for providing resources to meet that particular obligation.
Given that we had initiated the pilot project, whether it was only for one community or not, it might cause them to feel that we should be responsible for that one pilot project as well as for all situations right across the territory, since we had essentially occupied the field immediately before.
The concern, consequently, was that while it may be $90,000 in Mayo, there may be 10,
11 or 12 other renewable resource councils that would all need $80,000 or $90,000.
Suddenly, what was once a well-intentioned pilot project turns into a $1 million
responsibility with no agreement for us to use to claim that it is ultimately a federal
That is the concern about having it tied down. We must ensure that the federal government knows, at least in writing, that no matter what we are doing in experiments with First Nations to try to make the umbrella final agreement come to life, ultimately the federal government will be occupying the field in terms of providing funds.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It seems, however, if one analyzes the pilot-project situation, the cause for concern, in most cases, should not be there. If, for example, we are providing services to non-First Nations people, and the First Nation is the delivery agent in that case - as in the pilot project in, say, Watson Lake and Ross River - and there is a bunch of money, which would be their normal resources in the equation under self-government, they cannot claim that this is money used for the funding of self-government. It would be money given to them for providing a service to non-First Nations, so I do not see how that could possibly be argued.
The second kind of pilot project that we provide is where we are delivering services to First Nations, particularly in the area of child welfare. A good example is one where we decide that, instead of the government delivering the service, someone who is trained at the local level of a First Nation delivers that service on our behalf. If they are taking that service over, under self-government negotiations, we will lose that funding. However, we would lose it anyway, because if it was someone in our shop who was providing the service and the First Nation took it over, the argument goes that they would reduce our funding by the equivalent amount. That is not a problem. We are trying to be as cautious as we can about this process.
When we get into new, additional services, that is the area in which we really have
some concern. I mentioned the one in Kwanlin Dun as a prime example. It is quite a hot
topic right now. We are trying to get the Indian Affairs people to see the light.
Certainly, additional services in the justice field have to be very carefully thought out in this day and age. A great deal of care has to be exercised where an additional service is being provided. To my knowledge, aside from the language of self-government - the stuff that is now law - there is no blanket protection, aside from that language, of which I am aware. When dealing with these small issues, certainly from the federal government where you might be coming up with a $25,000 contribution to hire somebody to do some justice work, or something in the community, it is pretty hard to get anybody on the federal side to give you that kind of reassurance. It is an awkward area, but it is only a small part of anything we are doing under pilot projects because the other two examples I have given clearly ought not to be a cause for concern, it seems to me.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister has provided three categories, and I would argue that there are probably four categories that are of significance. First of all, the Minister and I agree that, where the service levels are being provided to non-First Nations, no argument is applicable. If we want to establish a new precedent and raise service levels, we have to live with the consequences and either cut or, alternatively, enhance and further those levels. It is our responsibility alone. I understand that, and I agree.
In terms of transferring existing levels of service, I think there are two sub-categories. First of all is the case where the service provider is transferred to the First Nation and, in transferring that, all we are doing is trading dollar for dollar - whatever dollar we spent originally, we are spending now in a new delivery of service. That is one category. I agree that, if it is simply dollar for dollar, we are only anticipating what the land claims agreement anticipated would happen.
As the Minister knows, what often happens when a service to a community is transferred, and there is a different delivery agent, sometimes it comes at an increased cost, the same level of service with increased costs. If we do not have a sense that the federal government is going to acknowledge this and reimburse us in the long term, once the matter is decided, then the cost of devolution is something we might end up bearing, and that ought to be of some concern.
The fourth category is new service levels. I think we both agree that this could be a problem if it is not handled properly. If the federal government ignores the designation of pilot projects, or fudges it and suggests that this is something more than a pilot project - that we entered a field, so it is now our field, and they have not signed on in some written way that it is a pilot project - the concern is that if we decide that we are going to provide services to only half of the communities through a pilot project, ultimately it was our decision to cover some communities and not others, and because we had entered the field first, we will pay the full shot for certain costs of service.
Ultimately, the problem is going to arise when we try to determine, in giving life to the land claims agreement, what we are going to do when we start talking about enhancing the level of service or transferring the same level of service to First Nations, but at an increased cost.
My anxiety, at least, is not satisfied unless there is some formal recognition by the federal government about what precisely it is we are doing as we are doing it and whether it could be resolved through some negotiators' agreement or by attaching some clauses to the pilot project agreements to which the federal government would sign. If that does not exist, I do not know how the government is going to resolve this problem.
Can the Minister provide us with a list of just those pilot projects that have been undertaken since, say, 1990, for which there is an acknowledged increased level of service - there are only two pilot projects that provide services to First Nations members or devolve that service at the community level to the band - or those that involve the same level of service but with increased cost to the Yukon government? Would it be possible to get a list?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will try to get the Member a list at some point. I believe
most of these pilot projects have been developed in the Department of Health and Social
Services. Is the Member asking about the past last two years since our mandate has been in
Mr. McDonald: It does not matter to me how far back this goes. It could go back to 1988 or 1987, or whenever it was that the government began actively anticipating self-government and thinking in those terms. I certainly remember expressing concerns about this issue years ago, and I would just like to see how the administration in government has responded to it. I think there could be some significant financial consequences for us if we do not have a plan.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We will see what we can provide for the Member, but it may take a couple of days. We are probably talking about apples and oranges here. We are talking about pilot projects. On straight service agreements, where a municipality or the territorial government may be delivering the service now, and a First Nation may desire to take over that service, there will be a separate negotiation. From my interpretation of the agreements, whatever savings we have would be passed on to the First Nation or whoever was delivering the service. We would lose that funding from the federal government.
In reality, in a lot of instances, there may be no cost savings to us in vacating part of a field. In fact, the costs may be exactly the same. That is where the negotiations on the service agreements will come in. I do not think they will be simple agreements, where the level of funding will be satisfactory to all departments involved, because the federal government is not in a position to be generous with its funding right now. I think there will be some very difficult negotiations with regard to service agreements.
Mr. McDonald: I do not doubt that at all. That is precisely the reason I am raising the issue. It will not be generous in its interpretation of events. It will be quite conservative, so to speak.
I realize that the Yukon government, since the middle 1980s, has also been providing certain services in rural aboriginal communities, something that was not done in the early 1980s. I am not referring to all that; it is a huge category. I am referring more specifically to the devolution of responsibility from the central government to First Nations. Most of this has been designated as a pilot project in some way. That is the category that I am interested in. I am focusing on that in my discussion, so that we do not get into a huge review.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To my knowledge, in the area of Justice and Health and Social Services, there are not that many, particularly in the categories 3 and 4 that were referred to by the Member.
The most striking area where it might cost a lot more to deliver the same service by devolving it to a small community is the area of Justice, and that has been a grave concern of mine. The Department of Justice has been looking at fairly innovative ways to try to ensure that we do not prejudice ourselves in the self-government negotiations when they come along.
We have a situation where this government has, in a pilot project with Kwanlin Dun for example, entered into an agreement and is providing part of the funding - the band is providing part and the federal government is providing a large part. Within the context of our agreement, there is language signed by all three parties that should give some reassurance.
The department is trying to negotiate community-based justice in some mixed communities, such as Haines Junction, and there is a very preliminary agreement. It is community-based justice, and some funding will be coming from this government and presumably some from the federal government. It is quite nominal to begin with, but it is a very dangerous area because, if it is truly aboriginal justice only in the smaller communities, we are still going to have to have a parallel justice system in the end.
If it is a community-based justice system, one would think that self-government probably would not do much more - if it is a system that the community, as a whole, is happy with - then codify, put into the contract or put into law, the pilot project, with some enhancements. In my view, the real trick there is going to be to try to ensure that we do not put a whole bunch of money into what is, obviously, in a mixed community, a justice system that does not provide for everyone in the community. So, where there are significant proportions of beneficiary populations and non-beneficiary populations, that is a problem. Carcross, Teslin and Haines Junction are examples of those kinds of communities. It is not very much of a problem in a community such as Old Crow or Pelly.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m. we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further debate on Land Claims Secretariat?
Mr. McDonald: When we left the subject of the funding for pilot projects for First Nations governments in anticipation of their assuming responsibilities for self-government powers, I had asked the Minister if he could provide me with a list of pilot projects that had been agreed to by the First Nations and the Yukon government. I am now asking if he can provide the agreements themselves - the Minister of Health and Social Services pointed out that there are only a few. If there is any documentation of any commitment by the federal government to fund the pilot projects or the enhancements to services after the self-government agreements have been signed, could he please provide that language or those agreements to us?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will see what information we can get for the Member and bring it back as quickly as possible.
Mr. McDonald: Is the Minister saying that he will bring the agreements to the House? Presumably, they are public documents, given that the First Nations have signed them. I would just like a little clarification on that point.
I would also like to ask whether or not there was a qualifier stating that, when the self-government agreements are signed there will be a refund to the Yukon government in exchange for the advances the Yukon government provided to the First Nations before the self-government agreements were signed.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the agreements are public documents, there is no reason why we should not be able to get copies of them for the Member. I will take notice of the last point and get whatever information we can on that as well, but it should all be spelled out in the agreements that are negotiated. If there are any other documents under the land claims process on funding arrangements, I will make them available to the Member, as well.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
On Land Claims Secretariat
Land Claims Secretariat in the amount of $1,386,000 agreed to
On Policy and Communications
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The budget is increased by $5,000 for this branch. This is due mainly to merit increases for eligible employees. Funds for contract services have been reduced. There is a decrease of $8,000 in contract services due to planned staffing of the director of Federal Relations Office in Ottawa. This will allow more work to be carried out in house.
Key changes from the budget last year are increased personnel funds to cover merit increases for eligible employees and a decrease in contract services due to work being carried out in house. There are no changes to the program objectives.
Mr. Penikett: On page 2-8 of the budget document, there is a list of the number of news releases, the amount of government advertising and a record of the amount of work done by the photographers and by the inquiry centre. There is no information about what the policy and intergovernmental relations people have been doing, which covers, if one adds in the Federal Relations Office, about one-half of this budget.
Can the Government Leader tell us about the main recent achievements of the policy
people? Are there any plans or major goals for this coming budget year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe there is any one area in particular that could be highlighted. They are working on policy analysis and coordination in various areas. As we move along through the year, they are working to develop a policy on the casino, if it goes ahead. There is nothing major in the works and in policy development, outside of ongoing work that needs to be done.
Mr. Penikett: With respect, we are talking about $500,000, and the central agency's policy is a key engine of activity in most governments. It reports to the Government Leader. Perhaps I could ask the question in two parts. First, what were the major achievements of the policy people last year, and, arising from the plans articulated in the throne speech and the budget speech, what will be the major projects they will be undertaking in this budget year?
I assume that there is a work plan. Without revealing any confidences about the government's strategies, surely there is a list of projects in the work plan that the House can be told about.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not have the work plan here, but I can certainly get a list of whatever is in the work plan and make it available to the Member opposite.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate that, but would he also care to share with the House the major achievements or major completed projects of this group for the past year?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, we can do that also.
Mr. Penikett: From time to time, particularly toward the end of Mr. Drown's tenure here, we occasionally heard comments from the government benches to the effect that they were not communicating effectively over there and that their problems with public opinion were problems of communication. I am therefore forced to ask whether the Government Leader believes the $519,000 in this budget will be adequate for the rest of the government's communication problems, or will they be changing their approach to communication in any significant way?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe the budget is quite adequate to handle communications. Government communications take place on various different levels, not just for the communications advisor. Communication is MLAs doing their jobs in their ridings as well as Cabinet Ministers being able to relay what they are doing to the people in general, without having to go through the government channels to do it.
Mr. Penikett: That is a point of view we probably all share.
Let me ask the Minister about one dimension of the communications challenge, which is
an area I asked about in general debate but to which I do not think I have the answers
yet. It was about photography and charge-out rates and reprint fees and things like that.
Has that answer been filed? It has? All the questions I asked on that, including the
government's policy? Did the Minister remember the critique attributed, I believe, to a
certain Mr. Hartmier?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am sorry, but I thought we provided that information one day at the start of debate. I do not have it with me on an index card that I can refer to, but I thought we had provided it to the Member opposite. If we did not, I apologize, and we will get it to him as quickly as possible. I was certain that I had tabled it.
Mr. Penikett: I, too, remember some information coming back, and, I confess, I do not have it here, either. Not having it in front of me, I am not sure whether or all of the policy questions were answered. As a reminder, I was interested not only in the rates we had, but how they compared. I guess there were several policy issues raised in the article from which I quoted, and which the Government Leader later admitted to having seen, even though he could not remember the title, which is fair enough. I think somebody may be looking to see if we have that document here.
Can I ask the Government Leader about the next line: Federal Relations Office? We are
going to spend $180,000 there. I do not want to put words in the Government Leader's
mouth, but I have sent hints from time to time that perhaps questioned whether we are
getting value for money from this office. It is not staffed in the same way it was at one
time. When I came into government, I think there was not only a senior intergovernmental
relations officer there, who was a fairly senior person, but there was also a fiscal
relations officer, a secretary, and another gentleman - mysterious appointment - about
whom I knew nothing and who was doing some type of work that I was not quite able to
identify. He had been retained by the previous government for some purpose that I was not
able to fully establish. Anyway, he did not stay very long after that.
As I understand it, it has been this government's preference to have a senior fiscal relations officer, which is obviously a very important post, given the importance of the financial relationship with the federal government, and the long-term employee, the secretary, there. Some might wonder if the space we have might be surplus to the needs of a two-person office, and I would like to hear some general comments about what the Government Leader thinks about the continuing utility of the office and the appropriateness of the present level of staffing, and what kind of work might be assigned to it by the Executive Council Office in the coming months,
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have a copy of the document that we tabled the other day that gives a comparison between the Yukon and other jurisdictions, as well as a breakdown of the rates. We intend to fill the vacancy in the Ottawa office in this next fiscal year. I believe that, with devolution on the horizon and the ongoing negotiations with the federal government, it will be necessary to have someone there on a permanent basis. The fiscal relations officer, as well as the secretary, is still in the office. It is our intention to fill that office in the very near future.
Mr. Penikett: Could I ask if the person who will be filling that post will be the person in charge of the office? In other words, will they be in charge, or will the fiscal relations officer be the senior person there? Is the appointment likely to be a public service appointment or a political appointment? For the third part of the question, I want to ask if it is the government's intention that the person who is put there be bilingual.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It would probably be better if the person were bilingual. We have not advertised for the position yet; we are in the process of deciding how we are going to fill it. I can tell the Member opposite that it is not my intention to make it a political appointment. I believe that the office has to operate with a senior government official in order to be able to make contact with people within the federal bureaucracy. Contact at the political level could be made by the Ministers, but we do need somebody to deal with senior management in Ottawa.
Mr. Penikett: From what the Government Leader says, I take it that we are talking about a public service posting and, ideally, a person who is both knowledgeable about the Yukon and bilingual.
Is the money for staffing that position in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: My understanding is that it is.
Mr. Penikett: What was the money used for while the position was vacant?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We have had money in the budget that was not used, and it has either been lapsed or moved around to where it was required.
Mr. Penikett: There has been no contract work done with these salary dollars?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, there has not.
Mr. Penikett: How soon does the Government Leader hope to have this position staffed? I think the position before was a senior intergovernmental relations officer, or some such title.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It is our intention to staff it early in the new fiscal year. I would like to have it staffed sooner rather than later.
As to the level of the position, whether it will be that of a director level or deputy minister level, we still do not know. There is still debate going on as to how far one can get in Ottawa with the title of "director". I think the Members opposite are fully aware of the hierarchy in Ottawa, where it is very hard to open doors unless you have a title with which to open them. That is still under debate, but we hope to have it staffed early in the new fiscal year, which is the budget we are debating tonight.
Mr. Penikett: Given that that does seem to be the norm in Ottawa these days, it might be useful to retain someone by the name of Chretien - or perhaps even Cable.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who is writing the job description and classification for this position?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a job description and a classification for the position. It has always been on record. However, we are talking about perhaps changing the classification.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the official title is and explain the classification?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The official title is the same as stated in the budget: director of federal relations in Ottawa. It is an MG-7 position.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who will be doing the interview? First of all, where will it be advertised - outside or in the Yukon - and who will be doing the interviews?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I cannot give the Member that information because we have not yet made those decisions.
Mrs. Firth: When will the Minister be making those decisions, or who will make them?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Ultimately, it will be the Cabinet or I who will make the decision to fill the position. The Executive Council Office, with the Public Service Commission, will review the existing job description to ensure that it is current. It will be up to the commission to draw up the advertisement for the position.
Mrs. Firth: So, Cabinet will make the decisions with respect to when the job
will be filled and what the basic requirements will be, such as bilingualism and
experience with First Nations - I imagine that that would be a fairly important
requirement - and then Cabinet will make the decision as to whether or not the level will
be increased from an MG-7 and whether the title or classification will be changed. They
will also decide how it will be advertised, whether it will be here or all across Canada.
Once the decisions are made, it will then be up to the Executive Council Office, in
conjunction with the Public Service Commission, to do the advertising, interviewing and
hiring for the job. Is that all correct?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, that is basically correct. If it increased to a deputy minister level, I may also sit in on the interview. If it stays at the director level, it will be done within the Public Service Commission.
Mrs. Firth: I find that quite interesting. If the position is at the deputy minister level, I find the whole concept of Government Leaders advertising for deputy ministers, and them being interviewed rather unusual, because it really is the responsibility and the privilege of the Government Leader to appoint deputy ministers.
We now seem to go through some kind of advertising and interviewing process for these particular positions. Should it go to a deputy minister level, is it the practice of the Government Leader to sit in on deputy minister interviews? Did he sit in on the interview for the Deputy Minister of Government Services, for example?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I did not sit in on the one for Government Services. I did sit in on the one for Economic Development.
Mrs. Firth: How does the Government Leader decide which interview he is going to sit in on? Why did he sit in on some and not on the others?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I believe Economic Development is probably one of our most important portfolios and I wanted to be comfortable with the person who would be hired for that job rather than just having that person being recommended by the interview committee.
Mrs. Firth: Can I draw the conclusion that the Government Leader feels comfortable with the deputy minister, since he did not sit in on the interview? Or, he did not care about that one? It was not as important as Economic Development? I think the Government Leader should defend himself and give us some clear policy direction as to how he decides which deputy minister interviews he sits in on and which ones he does not.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The person who sat in on the interviews regarding the Government Services portfolio was somebody who I knew had some understanding of it. It was not somebody totally new. I am not even sure if I was available to sit in on that interview, but it was not something that I felt was that critical. When we were interviewing people with whom I was not familiar for the Economic Development portfolio, I felt it was important that I sit in on the interview.
Mrs. Firth: Have there been a lot of applicants with respect to the deputy minister positions? For example, of all the applicants for the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, did the Government Leader sit in only on the ones who were interviewed, or did he personally review all of the applications?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I only sat in on the interviews. They were first short
listed, and then I sat in on the interviews.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us who did the short listing?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It would have been someone from my office, either the Principal Secretary or he delegated it to the special assistant to Cabinet, as well as the Public Service Commission. We have had the Deputy Minister of Finance sit in on some of them, and I believe the Deputy Minister of ECO - I am sorry. The Minister responsible for Economic Development was also in on that interview.
Mrs. Firth: I find this practice of hiring deputy ministers rather unusual. I am going to ask the Minister some more questions about it just so that I clearly understand how deputy ministers are hired by this government.
The practice in the past has been that Government Leaders appoint deputy ministers. That is the way I remember it happening. It was up to the Government Leader to determine whatever kind of process they wanted for appointing that deputy minister. "Appointing" is the key word because they are order-in-council appointments. To say that they are going through this hiring process and so on, I think is sometimes just a way for the Government Leader to try to protect himself from the accusation of political appointments, patronage appointments and so on. I am curious with respect to this new process of appointing deputy ministers.
Do I understand the Minister correctly when he says that the Principal Secretary, Mr. Gordon Steeleeee, and his special assistant, Mr. Grant Livingston, work with the Public Service Commission in short listing the applicants who are applying for these deputy minister positions? I believe that is what the Minister just said.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Since this was for the Minister of Economic Development, he will explain how this one went. I think he sat in on the short listing.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: For the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Livingston and I, separately, did the short listing. I forget how many applications there were. The Public Service Commission went through the applications first, and indicated which people met the basic requirements; then Mr. Livingston and I separately made a short list. We then came together and agreed on four, I believe, for a final short list.
Mrs. Firth: I just have a couple more questions then I will turn the floor over to other Members who have questions about this same issue.
Can the Minister tell me this, before I get into some of the details of how the Economic Development deputy minister was hired: is there a different process for every deputy minister who is hired?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, there is not a different process. I believe the Minister of Government Services sat in on the interviews for the Government Services deputy minister. The process is basically the same for each and every one of them.
Mrs. Firth: So, did Mr. Livingston and the Government Services Minister, Mr. Nordling, short list the applicants for the Government Services deputy minister position after the Public Service Commission had said whether or not they met the basic requirements?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Yes, I believe that is correct.
Mr. Penikett: I must first of all ask what the hell Mr. Steele and Mr. Livingston, who are political appointees, are doing short-listing applicants for deputy minister jobs who in law are supposed to be free of political colour. They are not allowed to belong to a political party and not allowed to participate politically, yet two political appointees are short listing people for deputy ministers' jobs. That seems to be unheard of in this jurisdiction.
Let me ask this direct question first: are these political appointees mucking about in
these public service appointments before or after the Public Service Commission has
certified the people as qualified?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: After they have been certified by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Penikett: Could the Government Leader say that again? I apologize, but I did not hear the answer.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: After they have been qualified for the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Penikett: It begs the question: did Mr. Steele and Mr. Livingston have anything to do with writing the job descriptions or ads?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I believe they were written by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Penikett: We had a controversial case of an ADM job, which should be absolutely free of any political interference, but it was written in such a way as to seem to have been written particularly for one candidate. Was there any political advice or instruction from either a Minister or political staffer with respect to the job description and advertisement for the ADM, schools branch, Department of Education?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am glad the Member opposite asked. I want to put on the record clearly that there was not. My understanding is that the job description was written in conjunction with the Department of Education and the Public Service Commission. The Member says the job description was written for one specific person. I can tell the Member opposite that I was just as surprised as anyone when that person won the competition. It was a fair and legitimate competition, carried out in a manner consistent with the way ADMs are hired.
Mr. Penikett: I have to tell the Government Leader directly and sincerely that I think it is a bunch of nonsense. I know of no one in the education system, including some close friends I have in senior ranks of the Department of Education, who does not believe that job description was politically driven. It defies belief that the government would write a job description for the head of the schools branch, removing reference to practical experience in administering schools, being a principal, being a teacher, or having any professional background in educating school children whatsoever, but emphasizing a business background and management skills, when the entire program is about running schools - which is not about business or money, but it is about educating children. I find it incredible that, left to their own devices, professionals in the Department of Education would have written such a job description.
I appreciate what the Government Leader says, and he may sincerely believe it, but I do not.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The Member can either believe it or not believe it. I have said, quite clearly, that that is the way it happened.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader has shown a lack of willingness to allow us direct access to officials, but would it be possible to have the Deputy Minister of Education perhaps appear before Committee of the Whole, at some point, in order that we can discuss why the job description was worded the way it was?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know that that would be appropriate. We have a Minister who is responsible for Education, and the Members opposite have every right in the world to question him about it when we get to his department.
Mr. Penikett: The trouble - notwithstanding the practice of Mr. Phelps the other day, who was answering questions on matters for which he was no longer responsible, which, of course, is a violation of parliamentary traditions - with Cabinet shuffles is that one cannot ask Ministers questions about what they were formerly responsible for. The Minister who was in charge at the time that decision was made is no longer responsible for Education, which means that, under our traditions, I cannot ask him about it. I also cannot ask the present Minister about it, because the present Minister would simply say that it was not his decision. So, we run into a dead-end in terms of that line of inquiry.
Let me return to the main concern here, though. The Government Leader has indicated to us that political appointees in his office are involved in short-listing people for competitions for deputy ministers' jobs - jobs which are, by law, supposed to be free of partisan colour. Certainly, I am sure, there are a lot of people who believe in the merit system of the public service and would be appalled to learn that political appointees, who have no expertise, no knowledge and no basis for making rational judgments in this area, other than their own political instincts, have influence in such matters.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not follow the Member's rationale. That responsibility has been delegated to me. I have the ability to hire the deputy minister without even having to go to competition, so I do not know what the Member finds so appalling about that. That is a practice that has been carried on in this, and possibly other, jurisdictions for as long as I can remember. If I have the ability to hire them, I certainly have the ability to delegate somebody to short list them after the Public Service Commission has deemed them to be qualified people for that position.
Mr. Penikett: I differ with the Government Leader on this. The Government Leader, I think, is confusing his two roles. As a leader of a political party in this House, the Government Leader has political staff, whom he is able to appoint and, as we discussed the other day, can delegate to them certain political tasks. However, the Government Leader appoints deputy ministers in a different role. The Government Leader appoints deputy ministers in his capacity as the chair of Cabinet - as the chief executive officer of the government, if you like - and as the sworn head of Her Majesty's government in the Yukon. He does not do that in his role as a politician. He does it in his role as the head of the government.
He does not appoint political staff to serve him in that role, he serves them in the other political role. The people he has that advise him in respect to his relationship with the public service are public servants. It is quite proper that the Public Service Commission should, as the law requires here, certify someone who is competent. The Government Leader is right; he can appoint someone without competition. However, the protection in the law- that, in fact, Mr. Pearson put into law here - is that the Public Service Commission has to certify the person as qualified.
Hence, the power of the Government Leader is not unilateral. In fact, the restraint on his power does not come from the political side of his office; it does not come from his political staff. It comes from an officer of the Public Service Commission, who is the only one who is appointed for long-term tenure - except for the six-month interregnum we had there for awhile. The tenure idea is so that they are free from political pressure. If political staff - people who are not qualified and have no basis for making an objective judgment about the qualifications of public service professionals - are involved in short listing - that did not happen while I was in government; I do not know what happened under Mr. Phelps, but I am pretty certain this did not happen under Mr. Pearson-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: Mrs. Firth has confirmed it. It did not happen under Mr. Pearson. This is a new thing. I may say that I do not think it is a good thing. I want to ask the Government Leader this: what is his defence for the practice of having political staffers - Mr. Livingston and Mr. Steele - having a voice in decisions about who are to be the deputy ministers, the permanent administrative heads of departments? Political appointees come and go, but once deputy ministers are appointed, if they are competent and able, they might well be around for a long time. I certainly would not want to have a deputy minister whom Mr. Steele or Mr. Livingston, in their political capacities, had appointed, or had even had a big influence in appointing. They would never be trusted by a future government. That would be a problem professionally for that deputy minister.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: They did not have a hand in appointing them. I said that they had a hand in short listing them for interviews. Then, as the Minister of Economic Development said, he, I, and the Public Service Commission sat in on the interview.
Mr. Penikett: Let me deal with a hypothetical case for the Government Leader. Let us say that a prominent Liberal in town applies for a deputy minister position. They might be extremely well qualified, professionally. In a purely hypothetical case, let us just say that the position is the president of the Yukon Development Corporation. The person happens to have a degree in engineering, a law degree, a great deal of background in the field, knowledge of energy, is well known in the business community. The name comes forward, and a political staffer says, "This guy will not do; he is a Liberal." Never mind that the law states that he cannot be any political colour once he has the job, the political staff take him off the short list because he is a Liberal. Political staff deal with political considerations.
I am not asking how the Government Leader will be protected from that, but how is the public and the integrity of the public service to be protected?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We just said that people have been certified by the Public Service Commissioner as being qualified to fill the position of deputy minister. It is taken care of in that process.
Mr. Penikett: With respect, the Government Leader has just told us that first the candidates are certified by the Public Service Commission, so that they have gone through that hoop. After they have been certified by the Public Service Commissioner, the political staff and the Minister are involved in short-listing the final candidates for the final interview. What protection do we have that, after the Public Service Commissioner has certified candidate X, candidate X will not be screened out, or, dumped off the short list by political staff for reasons such as their political allegiance?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We are looking for a deputy minister. If the people are qualified, a certain number of them will be interviewed.
The Members opposite have said that we do not have to interview anyone for the position. As long as the person is qualified, I have the ability to simply appoint them, without going to competition. My understanding is that that happened under the previous administration. I do not understand the concern.
Mr. Penikett: Let me explain it to the Government Leader. Let us say that there is a competition for a job, and there are hundreds of applicants - which certainly was the case when I was Government Leader - and 10 of them are certified by the Public Service Commission. Someone makes a decision that only five of them will be interviewed. Who decides who those final five are and which of those five qualified people are refused an interview? It is a very important point.
If this Committee hears that the people who have a hand in making the decision about which people get an interview are not qualified public servants, are not public service professionals, are not people who are paid to do that job but are political appointees of the Government Leader, there to serve a political task, then this House is almost certainly going to want to know from the Government Leader, in every such case, what is the list of qualified people and who were rejected by the political staffers, and why? Then, they will further want to know whether or not these people had any influence in the final decision. Let us say that I am using the case I just used: which one of the five gets offered the job?
I think the government could mount a legitimate argument that that kind of personnel question was none of our business, if it was being conducted entirely professionally and objectively inside the Public Service until it got to the Government Leader. We have heard tonight that people who previously were seen to have no business in this decision - political staffers - and we are going to want to know who are the winners and losers in this process and what influence the political staffers had on those decisions. I think that is a perfectly legitimate thing for the House to do, once we find there is a political dimension to the decision. Can the Government Leader comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Certainly, when we have a long list of candidates, there must be a selection process to get down to the best qualified people. We are looking for the best qualified people. Many people can fill the minimum requirements for a deputy minister, but we are looking for the best qualified people, especially when there is an abundance of them at this time. That is the reason for short listing them, interviewing them and then selecting the winner.
Mr. Penikett: Everyone agrees that Gordon Steeleee is a jolly good chap, but let me ask the Government Leader this: what qualifies Gordon Steeleee to tell the people of the Yukon, because that is ultimately what he is doing, who is qualified to be Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Deputy Minister of Government Services, deputy minister of anything? What qualifications does he have for having handled such a short list?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: We just said that these candidates were certified by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Penikett: I am not disputing that I used an example. The Public Service Commission has certified 10 of them. Mr. Gordon Steeleee, in a hypothetical case, cuts the list down to four or five. What satisfaction do we have that the four, five or six people he kicked off the list were not kicked off for political reasons, but were kicked off for some valid objective judgment about their professional qualifications or their public service experience. How are we to know that?
Nothing the Government Leader has said to us would give us comfort that Mr. Steele is able to make a professional judgment about that, because it is not his business, his job or his training; it is not even what he is hired to do. We respect the fact that the Government Leader can make the final decision, but I want to know why Gordon Steeleee, a political appointee, should get to decide or even have a say at all in who finally gets interviewed for a deputy minister job.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It seems that the concerns are wandering here. First of all, we are talking about qualified people. We have 10 qualified people. They have been certified by the Public Service Commission. Ultimately, we will be hiring the person we feel is best suited for the job. If they are all qualified, that is the main criteria. They are all qualified to hold this job.
There can always be a debate about which five were interviewed or which were not. That can always be a debate, but as long as the people are qualified, and we are not appointing unqualified people to these positions, that is the main point. That is why they are approved by the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Penikett: Neither statement of the Government Leader will stand close scrutiny. There is not always a debate about who is hired and whether or not the best person was hired, because it has not been the custom of this House to press government leaders about exactly who the candidates were. However, if the proposition is: if they are all qualified, the government can hire any one of them, that is technically correct. However, let us say that we were shown a list of candidates - assuming we were - and a Member of this House looked at the list and asked who was interviewed and the answer was only half of the 10 - five. We would ask why the other five were not listed. We might not get a satisfactory answer, especially if there was some reason, such as, say, the five who did not get interviews all happened to be people who had campaigned vigorously for, just as an example, the Member for Riverside.
Therefore, they had a black mark against their name.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: There was a big L or some other mark. If they were seen as politically suspect and not fit for public service at the highest level, how would the Legislature ever be satisfied on that score, especially since the Government Leader has now told us that people who, in my opinion, have no business having a say in the matter have a very powerful influence? They help to decide who gets an interview and who does not. By definition, someone who does get an interview is not going to get the job.
There may be people who are cast aside, thrown onto the ash heap of history, denied the possibility of serving the people of the Yukon, simply because of some past political transgression, but we will never know that. What we do know is that political staffers are, by their training and inclination - because they are partisans - very apt to allow such considerations to enter into their judgment.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It boils down to whether people are qualified to hold the job. The Government Leader has the final say in whether or not to appoint the name that is recommended. There may be some who were not interviewed, for whatever reasons - whether the Member wants to believe it was for political reasons, or whether it was because we did not feel they were suited for the job at the time. Times change, and someone who may be suitable to the Member opposite would not work in this administration, and may not even want to work for this administration.
Ultimately, there is a choice to be made. The main criteria that has to be followed is that people who are qualified to hold the job are appointed.
Mr. Penikett: The Government Leader is right, that people in deputy minister jobs should be qualified. He is also right that there may be deputy ministers who do not want to work for a government of one political stripe; there may be others who would only work for a government of another political stripe. However, in my experience, the vast majority of deputy ministers in this government are people who are career public service professionals. In other words, when they are hired by government, they assume that they were not hired because of their personal philosophy; they were hired simply because they were competent to do a job as a senior manager. If there is a political staffer involved in the hiring process and they feel that they are somehow on sufferance to that political staffer, or that they may be terminated with extreme prejudice - even though they have done a good job - three or four years hence simply because their hiring has been coloured politically, they are now thought of as a Yukon Party favourite, or a Yukon Party choice, and that that political colouration has happened, not because the Government Leader chose him, but because he had his political staff short listing people for senior positions.
Let me ask the Government Leader this: does the Government Leader think that political staffers are involved in the short-listing process for senior people in Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know if they are or not.
Mr. Penikett: Does he know of any other democratically elected government or political jurisdiction in this country where political staffers are involved in short listing people for deputy minister jobs?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, I do not.
Mr. Penikett: Given that the Government Leader knows of no other jurisdiction where this happens, does he think that it is an ethically defensible practice?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I said that I did not know whether or not it happened. I believe that we are appointing them in an ethical manner. I will review this. I do not know what the concern is, because they are qualified people - they are qualified by the Public Service Commission. Ultimately, only one of them is going to get the job, even if there are 10, 20 or 100 of them who are qualified. We are going to pick the person who we feel will best work with our administration.
Mr. Penikett: That sounds like a fairly political qualification. Let me explain to the Government Leader that there are two concerns here. He is not just talking about a deputy minister who has to work with his political administration which, no matter how long it is here, is temporary. He is talking about someone who, to use the British terminology when they talk about deputy ministers, is the permanent head of the department, to distinguish him from the extremely temporary head, which is the minister. Ministerial careers in Britain are an average of 11 months in each department, I think. It is obviously important to have someone there who is a professional and has been around for a long time.
The second point is this: if you have a list of 10 candidates and all of them qualify, and there is a person on that list who is undeniably the best qualified by a jury of their peers in terms of their experience, their knowledge, their training, et cetera, and if that person is screened by a political appointee - a political servant and a political aide who has no background, no qualifications and no right to make any such decision, and not on the basis of any real knowledge of the person - I would not doubt that an uninformed political staffer might say, "that person spent their entire career in the McKenna government, or they spent their entire career working for the NDP government of Saskatchewan; we cannot afford to have such disease-ridden leprous types in the government; they may have picked up some funny ideas along the way, even though they do not have a party card, so we will screen them out".
If that happened, I think that not only myself but many other citizens would have an appropriate concern.
Let me just say that if there was any suspicion of that happening - and that suspicion is bound to arise when political staffers are involved in something that is none of their business - my guess is that there will be complaints.
I can also ask the Government Leader, who said that he was going to review this, to think about this: if there were another deputy minister position open in the next little while, let us say in the Department of Justice, given that we now know that political staffers are involved - in other words, they are politicizing the process - I think we, in this Legislature, would be perfectly within our rights to ask for a list of the qualified people, to ask who was interviewed and who was not, and then to very carefully scrutinize the final decision. That is what the Government Leader is inviting.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a very interesting comment, made by the Government Leader in a copy of Hansard from July 16, 1985. The Leader of the Official Opposition, when he was Government Leader, was asked how many people were interviewed for a job. He replied that one person was interviewed, one person was certified and one person was hired.
In reality, what difference does it make, as long as the person is certified by the Public Service Commission?
Mr. Penikett: I love it when the Government Leader quotes me. I appreciate it, but he has somewhat missed the point. I did not deny that the Government Leader has the right to appoint a person who is certified. I do not deny that the Government Leader may choose to only interview one candidate. However, the difference between the Government Leader and Mr. Gordon Steeleee is that the Government Leader is accountable to this House. Mr. Steele is not accountable to this House or to any of his peers in the public service.
I have nothing against Gordon Steeleee. He is a lovely man. However, if Gordon Steeleee is a political aide, and he is making any decisions affecting the public service, I have a problem with that. I do not think that is his job; it is not what he is supposed to do.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Steele is working under my instructions. I am ultimately responsible for what he does.
I just want to go back to another comment, from the same day in the Legislature - July 16, 1985 - during a question directed to the Government Leader from the Member for what was then Porter Creek West.
He asked a question about political patronage appointments, which was an issue during the election. He went on to state that the then-Government Leader dismissed two deputy ministers for political involvement. He noted that the two positions had been advertised nationally and, according to the Government Leader's position prior to the election, political patronage should not be a criterion for such appointments.
The Member opposite was asked to assure the House that political patronage was not the criterion, but capabilities and merit were, to which the Member opposite replied "yes". The Member for Porter Creek then went on to say that, in view of the Government Leader's response, could he explain to the House why he had named an active supporter of the NDP to a $78,000 position as the Deputy Minister of the Executive Council Office.
I think we are doing a fair job of interviewing people who are certified by the Public Service Commission, and we are hiring qualified people as deputy ministers.
Mr. Penikett: I am happy to answer the Government Leader's question. No deputy minister whom I appointed, during their time of service as deputy minister, was permitted by our government to belong to or be active within a political party, whatever their previous association had been. The person I appointed, whom Mr. Lang was complaining about, apart from being qualified, had another singular quality: she was a woman. I wanted to send a very clear signal to the public service, to which the previous Conservative government had appointed no women deputies, that that was one direction in which we wanted to move toward change.
I will say further to the Government Leader, since he and his colleague, the former
Government Leader, have mentioned this a couple of times recently, the two people he
referred to who were dismissed from the public service were dismissed for cause. They both
had their photographs appear on the front page of the Whitehorse Star, dressed in
silly hats at a Conservative convention. The reason they were dismissed, as they know, is
because several other deputies, who were concerned about the professional integrity of the
public service, said to me that, in their view, it was behaviour that was incompatible
with the position of a deputy minister and that if the traditions of a merit public
service were to be maintained, no government could tolerate that.
I took that advice very seriously. I do not believe in the Chinese system; I do not believe in eunuchs. I do not believe there is anything wrong with people having a political past. In fact, I appointed people with good, conservative pedigrees to a number of positions; others I can think of had deep and strong associations with the Liberal party, and so forth. I do not believe in the silly notion that operates in some parts of this country, that political activity disqualifies you for other work, or even for a public service position - quite the opposite. I do believe that qualification is the first question, and I do believe in a separation between political functions and public service functions. If one muddies the water too much - and I do not deny that it goes on in a lot of places - I think one creates problems for oneself.
I would only say to the Government Leader, if you have political staffers involved in the appointment of people to public service positions, there are going to be problems. One of the problems is that one invites debate in this House about whether there were any political considerations in hiring deputy ministers. I do not think Members on this side of the House can shrink from that debate now that we know that political staffers have a hand in making those appointments, and that is something I do not think should be done.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: It appears that the Member opposite has had a change of heart since he was Government Leader because the very next answer he gave to Mr. Lang was, and these are that Member's words, "As the Member knows, deputy ministers are recruited and appointed under the Public Service Commission Act. The Public Service Commission recruits and certifies; the Government Leader selects and appoints."
I am glad to see he has had a change of heart lately.
Chair: Order please. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there further debate?
Mr. Penikett: I just have one question for the Government Leader. I did not understand the point he was making just before the break. Could he explain what his point was?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Quite clearly, what we are doing here is certainly no different from what was being done under the previous administration where the government leader of the day, now the Leader of the Official Opposition, said that deputy ministers are recruited and appointed under the Public Service Commission Act. The Public Service Commission recruits and certifies and it is up to the Government Leader to select and appoint.
All of the applicants forwarded to us by the Public Service Commission were approved and qualified to hold a job as deputy minister. Someone has to go through the list and make a short list. What the Member opposite is saying, if I understand him correctly, is that one of my political people, as he calls them, one of my assistants, should not have anything to do with it because we cannot trust them but we can trust the Government Leader to short list these people.
That is basically what he is saying. Those people are there. I delegate the work to
them. Is the Member opposite saying that I do not have the ability as a Government Leader
to short list them? I just do not know where he is coming from because I think we are
doing an admirable job in trying to be fair in how we hire deputy ministers. We do go to
competition. We do look for qualified people, and I do not think they should be suspect
because they were short listed by somebody in my office or by me for an interview. We
cannot interview all of the qualified applicants. The Minister of Economic Development, I
thought, laid out quite clearly how the short list was arrived at by him and a person in
my office going through the applications and coming to a consensus on who would be
interviewed, based on their qualifications.
This was after all of these applicants had been certified by the Public Service Commission. Quite clearly, I do not believe that the manner in which a deputy minister was hired will be analyzed by the new government coming in. What will be taken into consideration is his or her ability to do the job. I do not know if, since the Leader of the Official Opposition has been out of office, he has had a complete change of heart as to how deputy ministers should be hired and that the political people, including me, should have absolutely no say in who is short listed, and that we should simply take the person whom the Public Service Commission says we should take.
Mr. Penikett: Perhaps I am speaking in tongues, but I did not say anything like what the Government Leader asserted I said. Let me try and explain the concern, in plain terms, and then I will sit down and let the Government Leader hear what other people think about this. There is no doubt that the final decision with respect to deputy minister appointments is the Government Leader's, or the Government Leader acting in the name of Cabinet.
Technically, as the law now stands, Cabinet has to actually appoint the person. There is no doubt that the Public Service Commission, in law, is required to certify that the candidate is qualified. That has not changed since the days that the NDP was in government. It was also the same when the previous Conservative government was in power.
What is different is that the Government Leader has said that political staff, who are not qualified for the task nor are appointed for that purpose, have a hand in making the appointments, in that they participate with other political people, such as Ministers, in short listing candidates for interviews. It is a concern, because these people are not qualified to do this. We have no reason given to us why they are doing it.
Since these people are political partisans who are paid to help the Government Leader promote the interests of his party inside and outside of the Legislature, it is a reasonable question for us to ask what considerations they bring to the job of short listing candidates for deputy minister posts. Since they are not departmental managers or fellow deputies, they will probably not be governed entirely by a sense of the needs of the department or the management gaps that may exist in the government. What they do is give the Government Leader political advice, not professional or public service advice.
The Government Leader says that he laid out how the process worked with respect to the Deputy Minister of Economic Development.
The Government Leader did not do that. What the Deputy Minister of Economic Development did was tell us who was involved; he did not tell us how the decisions were made. He gave us no sense of what considerations were brought to bear in the discussions between him and the political aide about which people should get an interview and which should not.
I am not going to put this as a question, I will just make it as a representation to the Government Leader. The problem is, now that we know that the political staff are involved in short listing people for deputy minister interviews, the next time that a deputy minister position comes open, Members on this side of the House are almost certain to ask questions about the process; we are certain to ask questions about who was involved, and if there are qualified people who are not interviewed and we find that out, we are bound to ask questions about why they were not interviewed. We are bound to ask questions about whether the political staff had any say in those decisions, and if they did have any say in the decisions there may be a debate about why they made the decisions that they made. None of that should surprise the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I hear what the Member opposite is saying. Is the Member opposite trying to say here tonight that a Minister should have absolutely no say in the hiring of the deputy minister who will be working for him?
Mr. Penikett: I did not say that. What I am saying is that the political staff who were not elected by anyone, who have not won a public service competition and who were appointed by the Government Leader to do political tasks, have no business making any decisions about who should be in the public service, especially who should be in senior positions in the public service.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the political staff were sitting on the interview panel, I think that the Member would have a very valid case, but they are not. They are merely, on my instructions, going through a pile of applications that have all been certified by the Public Service Commission. The Minister also went through a pile of applications, and then a consensus was reached about the people whom they felt should be interviewed, based on their qualifications. Each and every one of the applicants had already been certified by the Public Service Commission. The commission did not interview anyone for the job.
Mr. Penikett: It is an interesting argument. Let me see if I can deconstruct it.
The Government Leader said that if a political appointee were sitting on the interview panel, my concern about their being there would perhaps be legitimate. Why? I guess because these people are having a say in who is appointed as deputy minister. Why are they having a say? Because they are on the panel. We all agree that the Government Leader and, ultimately, Cabinet have the final voice, but we also know that a Government Leader would be influenced by the opinion of other panelists and would no doubt be influenced by other people who advise him.
In my view, the point is that there is only a slight qualitative difference in terms of the influence they have in the decision between someone who is on the panel and someone who helps decide who gets interviewed.
The Government Leader then used an interesting word. The Minister and the political
appointee are trying to achieve a consensus, which is an interesting word because it
implies that all the people involved in making the decision have an equal voice. I have
conceded that it is perfectly proper that the Minister should have a lot to say to the
Government Leader about who the deputy is, but I have a different view about whether it is
appropriate for a political staffer to have an equal voice in achieving consensus.
A deputy minister does not operate in the same world or the same universe as the political staffer. The political staffer's business is politics. The deputy minister's job is government. Like it or not, there is a difference between the two. The Government Leader is special, as are Ministers special, because under our system of government they have to do both. They are the people where politics and government meet and are married.
In the way we organize government in this country, as the way it is organized in most places in the western world, there is a clear distinction between party political activity - partisan activity, politics, what goes on in the Legislature, what goes on in the back rooms - and what goes on in government - in other words, the Cabinet table and the bureaucracy.
That is the point.
I am not asking another question. I am just commenting in response to the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I will make a couple of comments on this. I take exception to the Member opposite calling these people strictly political appointments. They are political appointees, but they are not hired basically because of their politics. They are hired because of the expertise and advice they can give the Government Leader. The Member opposite is saying that they cannot give me sound advice without playing partisan politics all the time, and I disagree with that assumption.
Rather than my going through a pile of applications and short listing them, for which I am ultimately responsible, I have assistants to give me assistance. If I choose to delegate one of them to work, in this case, with the Minister involved to come up with a list of candidates from a qualified list to be interviewed, I see nothing wrong with that.
Mr. Penikett: Let me just make a final effort to demonstrate what I see wrong with it, by demonstrating the absurdity of the following proposition. I think that if the Government Leader asked any deputy, particularly the Deputy Minister of ECO, to advise him on who should be hired, short listed or interviewed for a position as Principal Secretary, or executive assistant in his office, or constituency advisor, or any of those things any professional public servant would recoil in horror and say, "That is not my world, that is none of my business, this is a line I should not be crossing."
My argument is that a professional political staffer should understand the same thing goes the other way, that there is a line that they should not cross.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have heard the Government Leader make at least three remarkable statements here in the last little while on the subject of the hiring of senior officials in the government. First of all, the Minister said that he was as surprised as anyone else when the Assistant Deputy Minister of Education was hired. I have to tell the Government Leader that there were an awful lot of people who phoned my office who were not surprised about who was hired. The former Minister of Education spent quite considerable time on his feet trying to defend the changes that were made to that particular job description.
I think it was remarkable for the Government Leader to say he was surprised. I certainly have heard from a lot of people who still assert that there were qualified applicants who were not interviewed for that job.
Second, I heard the Government Leader state that political staff are making decisions on short listing candidates for deputy ministers positions. That is certainly disconcerting from a personnel standpoint. I wonder who developed the criteria for how they would select candidates for those jobs and what those criteria are.
The Government Leader also said that he participated in the interviews for the Deputy Minister of Economic Development but that he did not participate in the interviews for the Deputy Minister of Government Services. That was the third thing that I found rather surprising because the Government Leader explained that he knew the applicant and he knew his work. The question in my mind is this: did they then only interview one person whom the Government Leader knew and whose record he was familiar with?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: First of all, the Member is wrong when she states that my assistants are making decisions. They are not. They make recommendations to me; I make the decisions.
I believe that there was more than one person interviewed for the Government Services job. I do not know that for certain, but I think that was the case. Also, I believe that the Minister sat in on the interview, as well as two deputy ministers.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Government Leader certainly implied that only one person was interviewed for the job. We can check the Hansard transcripts, but I heard the Government Leader saying that he did not sit in on the interview because he knew the applicant. It implied to me that he knew the successful applicant, and that he knew the work of the person who got the job.
I am referring to the Government Leader's own statements. I find them quite surprising and disconcerting.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I may have said that. I will check Hansard tomorrow.
I will clarify my remarks by saying that I knew that that particular person had applied for the job and that he had been short listed. I believe that some other people were interviewed for the job, as well.
Mrs. Firth: I have a lot of concerns about the change of direction the government has taken. In trying to legitimize this whole business of hiring deputy ministers, I think the hiring process has become somewhat of a farce. I know the Government Leader must be able to see the concern we have as Opposition Members about his Cabinet appointing or his own personally appointed political officials short listing applicants for deputy minister positions. I just do not believe the Government Leader does not understand our concern.
I am sure the individuals upstairs who are listening to the debate tonight know what the concern is but probably just do not care, because they are the government and know they can do this and get away with it.
It is our job in here to try to make the government defend its actions in a way that is understandable to us and to the public.
I have a lot of concerns about the term "qualified". Obviously there is something that makes some individuals more qualified than others - those individuals who are short listed. That short-listing is obviously done in some cases by the Minister and Mr. Steele and Mr. Livingston.
We know who does the determining - Mr. Steele, Mr. Livingston and Minister A, B, C or
D, but how do they determine what these extra-special qualifications are that warrant
certain individuals to be put on the short list but others not?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not think it is such a difficult process. For the sake of debate, let us say that there are 60 certified applicants, all having been deemed by the Public Service Commission as qualified to hold the position of deputy minister. As one goes through those applications, some applicants are going to be more experienced than others and some are going to possess more experience in the particular field that is required at the time, be it economic development or whatever. Other applicants will have a better understanding of the north than others. All of those things, and others, are taken into consideration.
I believe that having two people go through the applications - not two people who are at the same table or in the same room - at different times, each focusing on short listing the applicants in order to bring it down to a reasonable number for interviews, is a good process to use. I just do not see how this is compromising anybody or anything when, in fact, I have the ability to appoint a person without even doing interviews. We are expanding the process. We have taken on the task of hiring deputy ministers by advertising in the Yukon first for two weeks, prior to going outside, to see if there are qualified candidates here for the job. If not, we will advertise outside.
We are trying to put some sort of fairness into the system and to attract the best
quality candidates that we can for the job. I hope that answers the Member's question.
Mrs. Firth: I am not talking about the individuals; I am talking about the process. Right now, I think the process stinks, to be blunt, and I will tell the Government Leader why. If the Government Leader was making these appointments, basing them on his own criteria and answering to us in the Legislature on that, it would be fine, but that is not what is happening.
Mr. Steele and Mr. Livingston have the ability, on whatever criteria they decide, to short list people, so some of these 60 applicants are being excluded, but we do not know why. We have no idea what the criteria is, but we can speculate that it is political because they serve as political advisors in the Government Leader's office. If the Government Leader was doing it himself, he could tell us why here in the House, but that is not happening. Mr. Steele is not accountable to us in the House, nor is Mr. Livingston, nor are they accountable to the public.
That is why I can stand up here in the House and say the process stinks, and that there can be accusations made of political biases or political interference. I know there was a big concern about this when this government first took office because Mr. Livingston and Mr. Steele - I do not know if the accountant who was on contract for a short time was involved - were interviewing all the deputy ministers of the day. I know Grant Livingstonwas definitely involved in that particular process.
If I were the Government Leader, I would not be so eager to abdicate my responsibilities and my authorities to a political staffer. That is what he is doing. He is creating very powerful individuals who have the ability to determine who is short listed and who is not, with respect to these particular positions.
That is the concern that I have. I hope the Government Leader will think about it. I am sure we will be debating this issue again tomorrow. Perhaps the Minister could think about it overnight and come back and tell us what criteria Mr. Livingston and Mr. Steele have to follow. I am almost positive that there is no criteria, and that the Government Leader has abdicated his responsibility and delegated this responsibility to these individuals, as he has said here several times tonight.
I have a concern, and I think the public is going to have a concern about this, as well as the individuals who have been hired under these circumstances. I would like to ask the Government Leader this: since he delegates this responsibility to his political staffers to do the short listing, were these individuals also involved in the deputy minister shuffle? Did these individuals recommend to him who should be shuffled into which positions? Were they also involved in the change of Mr. McTiernan's position and Mr. Lawson's appointment?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Those are decisions that the Government Leader makes, and I did just that.
I cannot agree with the Member that this is a concern or that I am abdicating my duties. I am ultimately responsible. The Member can ask me these questions, but I have told her that we were looking for the most qualified people. I named some of the criteria that was used to find them. This was done not only by one of my assistants, but also by the Minister for whom we were hiring a deputy minister. He looked through the applications, on his own, and listed the people he felt were the most qualified for the job. The two lists were put together, and a short list was developed between them.
I am not abrogating my responsibilities at all. I am ultimately responsible for what happens in that office. I have assistants and I use them. That does not mean that I am abrogating my responsibilities. They understand what we are looking for in a deputy minister. They look for the qualifications when they go through the applications.
Mrs. Firth: Of course the Government Leader is abrogating his responsibilities. He did not even sit in on the interview for the Deputy Minister of Government Services. He gave us the reasons why. First, he knew the person - this should not really be number one on the list of qualifications - and, second, he said that another reason was that some areas were more important than other areas. He sat in on the one for Economic Development because it was a more important area than Government Services. I do not think that should come at the top of the list of criteria for qualifications, either.
I do not see how the Government Leader can say to me that he is not abdicating his responsibility. He has completely. He has passed this off onto his political staffers to do on his behalf, and I think that is wrong. I think it is wrong for the Government Leader to do that. If he is ultimately responsible for these appointments, then he should be doing it; he should not be abdicating his job to someone else.
I would like to ask him another question with respect to this whole idea of appointing deputy ministers. I have some concerns about the process and I have raised concerns in this House previously about how the pay scale is determined. We now have this new, all-encompassing salary range of $78,000 to $118,000 plus a year. Can the Government Leader tell me this tonight: does he make that decision or does he delegate that responsibility to the individuals, Mr. Steele, Mr. Livingston and the Minister and whomever else, to determine what the pay scale is going to be for the individuals who are being hired?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The pay scale is negotiated with the Public Service
Commissioner by the deputy minister, and the Public Service Commissioner comes back to me
with a figure to which I can agree or disagree.
Mrs. Firth: What the Government Leader is telling us is that when these people are short listed - number one we do not know what their salary is going to be - they are interviewed and we still do not know what their salaries are going to be. Then they choose the individual and send that individual up to the Public Service Commissioner to negotiate what their salaries are going to be - is that how it works?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: There is a pay range in the advertisement. When the candidate is selected, the Public Service Commissioner looks at the qualifications of that candidate and basically recommends a pay scale that will be offered. It is the Public Service Commissioner who offers the job to the successful candidate, and lets the candidate know what salary the government is contemplating paying, and determines whether it is acceptable or not.
Mrs. Firth: The deputy minister salary range is advertised on every job, from $78,000 to $118,000 plus. I understand from the Government Leader that the whole process is gone through without even knowing what the salary is going to be.
How does the government know whether it is getting the best person? I guess it just chooses the best person and then hopes that that person is not going to ask for the top salary - is that the way it is done?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: An offer is made, based on their qualifications.
Mrs. Firth: Not until after they have been chosen as the candidate. I think that gives the advantage to the applicant. If they know that they are the one chosen for the job, I think that enhances their bargaining position with respect to what they are going to be paid. Would the Government Leader not agree? If one knew that they were wanted, they would be inclined to ask for more money than if all the applicants were starting at square one.
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: Not necessarily, because after we have short listed and gone through a range of applications, there are usually four or five who are fairly close in the interview. It is perhaps only some personal preference that comes into the final numbers. If there are two people that interviewed very closely, and both are very capable and qualified for the job, it comes down to a first or second selection. The other applicants have not yet been notified that they have not been given the job. Until somebody has accepted the position, and before the other candidates are notified, we have the ability to go to the second on the list if we could not make a satisfactory arrangement with the person who was the first choice.
Mrs. Firth: In the short-listing process when the interview is held and the ministers and whoever else sit in on the interview, is salary discussed during that phase?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: No, it is not.
Now being the time, Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 1995-96, and directed me to report progress on them.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Fisher: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Acting Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled January 23, 1995:
Travel by Ministers for the period April to November, 1994 (Ostashek)
Oral, Hansard, p. 556